1 : to set at liberty : free; specifically : to free (as a country) from domination by a foreign power
Yesterday the girls and I went to see the Emancipation Proclamation. (If you live in Nashville, I highly recommend you go.) Before we went, I looked up a bit about the document online. I found this article on the National Archives website and read it aloud to the girls as we sat around the breakfast table. It was good background for all of us to understand the limitations of this document that proclaimed freedom for some, but not all. Yet the thing that stuck with me was this sentence: "Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into
the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators."
Did you catch that? "enabling the liberated to become liberators." What a gift: allowing freed slaves the opportunity to fight for the freedom of others. Because freedom, once gained, begs to be shared. I find this a powerful concept to ponder and explore on Ash Wednesday, especially since today's second lesson included a favorite passage reminding us that we are God's ambassadors. If I'm God's ambassador, what country do I represent? An enslaved one, held captive by lies? Or one that is filled with light and truth?
We all need to be liberated from something. Whether it's an addiction, a fear, a deeply rooted sin, a predilection for numbing the pain in our lives with screen time or the belief that we don't matter, we are all either enslaved or liberated - or both. Having one set of chains broken often leaves us passionate about the areas of our former enslavement. Once free of shame, we want others to see and name that demon for what it is. Formerly blind to the prison of objectification, we long to help other women see that they are more than the cells, ligaments, tendons and bones that comprise their bodies. Freedom begs to be shared.
But when we are trapped, we can resent the freedom of others. Addicts cleave to addicts, whether the addiction is alcohol or pessimism. Emotionally unhealthy people surround themselves with others in similar circumstances, if only to better shroud their hurt and pain. I am certainly guilty of surrounding myself with people like me. Currently, that means I want to be around friends who are self-aware, who know their own strengths and weaknesses and aren't afraid to share both. I crave time with women who walk with a limp from the ways life has broken and bruised them - but not defeated them. I want friends who wear their scars proudly because scars do not form on the dying.
That hasn't always been the case. For many years, I didn't see how broken I really was. I went through life shoving all of the hard feelings and hurts deep down inside. I wanted to be around people who didn't go too deep, who were content to watch a football game with me, but never push past the surface level. That got lonely. And I grew restless, tired of the same old me. I wanted more and sought people who want more.
I'm not sure whether I could qualify as liberated yet. There are still chains encircling me, many of which I don't even see holding me back. But I will tell you this, I long for freedom for myself and others and I am thankful for the blinders that have been removed from my eyes. I hope my daughters are never enslaved to the idea that they are not enough. I want mothers to resist efforts to shame their parenting, who instead revel in not having it all together, who can laugh over their inefficiencies and flaws.
Last night a friend who is walking a long, dark and muddy road shared her story. There was pain, anger and bleeding, but also hope: hope for a deep and lasting healing. And I saw in my friend a liberated woman who will tell her story to liberate others. There is nothing more beautiful than claiming the pain in our lives and using it to sow seeds of beauty and freedom. May we all have the courage this Lent to face, walk through and embrace our pain in order to be both liberated and liberators.