Closer to Free

“Finding Freedom To Be”

I remember the day I became a slave to my face.    old polaroid christine finding freedom

I was nine and taking some visiting kids on a tour of my elementary school. I don’t remember the occasion. All I know is that a teacher chose responsible me to lead and I was up for the job. At the end of the quick trip around the school, I stopped the small group of kids about my age outside the cafeteria.

“Any questions,” I asked.

“Yeah,” said the closest boy, “are you a boy or a girl?”

I was mortified. His question knocked me off-balance, challenging how I saw myself. And how others saw me. So began my journey of asking mirrors to tell me who I was and who I should be.

Old Polaroids

To solidify my new bondage to image, the series of shocking photos came next:

  • school pictures featuring my incongruous teeth and hair which reared their ugly heads year after year
  • the snapshot of my belly bulging in its bikini sandwich
  • the polaroid my dad took where I felt so beautiful in my pink night gown, only to disappoint again as my image materialized as not-so-pretty me

I struggled with my complexion for most of my life. Hormones and stress were my enemies. Even in my thirties and forties I leaned into mirrors, picking at the blemishes embedded in my skin. “Not better, only redder” was my ineffective mantra.

Getting older has its advantages: fifty-something skin and less stress have freed me from some of my mirror-gazing slavery.

Deeper Than the Skin

But the freedom I’m seeking is deeper than the skin. It’s farther in where heart meets soul.

Freedom from judgements: my own and those of others.

Freedom to be the real me is the center I seek.

I taste that freedom whenever I’m untethered to my image or my productivity or my critics. No lackey to fashion, no vassal of shame. No bondage to beauty as defined by me and my culture.

To me, real freedom feels like sliding along a river, body buoyant, no friction in the flow. Crank the self-conscious volume knob back to zero, I’m on a roll.

Recreation

Have you ever tried to recreate yourself? I tried once in college.

In the fall of 1982, I drove to Carnegie-Mellon University, 5 hours away from home for the first time in my life. I thought about becoming whomever I wanted to be. No one in this college town would know if I was naturally sassy or sweet, gregarious or aloof. I could present myself as the person I chose to be.

Trouble is, it is hard to stray from who we are at heart. I tried to gather my energies and garner new friends by behaving like a party girl, carefree and easy. But I didn’t have her in me. I couldn’t stick to the part and stay late in my party clothes. I just wanted to go home.

Free People

I recently wrote a song called, “Closer to Free.” The initial inspiration came as I perused the Free People clothing catalogue. At first, I thought it funny that a company would make such a statement about a line of clothing. Those hippie-esque styles in strange layers and pairings said, “be adventurous and creative and don’t worry if it doesn’t match.” The wispy indifferent models propped in languid poses declared, “we wear what we want wherever we dare.”

finding freedom: free people

They began to draw me in, these Free People. I’ve never had much sense of style. I have always admired girls and women who seemed to throw on any old thing and make it look good. Sometimes it was their sheer confidence and caution-to-the-wind that made them so attractive. Freedom from caring about what others would think seemed to set them free to flow in their clothing and throughout their lives. Like a river.

I was hooked. Sold! to the woman in earth tones and sneakers. Maybe now my inner critic will nap because I’m wrapped in these fabulous fabrics. Oh, the glorious freedom of not giving a crap.

The Catch

But there’s a catch. It’s there, squeezed between the freeze-frames. If we stretch it out to see the real-life spaces where we live our lives, it gets a little messy. Suddenly we see the props and pins that keep it all in place for the shot. A make-up artist and a clothing wrangler rush in to fix the blemishes and slips. These clips and vignettes, I sometimes forget, are only old polaroids of curated unconcern. We are all truly, sadly, very concerned.

The Thirst

We are a thirsty people and there’s no sating. We are hungry for love and acceptance. We hide our shame and insecurity behind snapshots and complicated layers. We buy the lie of self-re-creation.

Yes, we can dress for success and wear our truth to some extent. But freedom, true freedom from what we don’t want to be, implies a freedom toward something. If I am free from my naturally fearful, insecure and angry self, than what am I free to become?

Becoming

Back to center. In pulling focus, I discover a door to another room: a place called Acceptance.

What if I believed God loves me and accepts me as I am? What if I accepted myself ‘as is’?

We are told that’s what Jesus does: “Come to me and I’ll give you rest. Yoke yourself to me.”

If I am tied side by side to Jesus, I’m free from any other slaveries. I suddenly become free to be who I am, the girl He made me to be. Being tied to Him is a burden but it’s easy and light compared to all those other slave-drivers out there. I am Becoming, what I once was, the girl in the mirror of His love. I am becoming. His love becomes me.

Every once in a while, I see through the facades of photos and mirror images. Like floating down a river, these moments of clarity, of sweet release, are the times when I know I am closer to free 

Listen to this song here!

You say you’re one of the free people

Nobody tells you how to live

You splash your face across the page

And spread yourself so thin

 

Yeah, you look like one of those free people

Embrace the world and make it spin

But even you can only take so much

Til something’s got to give

 

Come closer to free

Come know your poverty

Feel your thirst and recognize your need

Come closer to free

 

Your clothes don’t cover up the heart of you

And freedom’s deeper than the skin

You think you’re shining like a star

But we see the shape you’re in

 

Yeah you could be one of the free people

No need to re-create yourself

The beauty you want to so much comes

From being loved so well

 

Come closer to free

Come know a sweet release

Can you feel your thirst and recognize your need

Come closer to free

 

Come closer to free

Come know the love you really need

When you feel the hunger and it grows you know

You’re closer to free     You could be one of the free people

 

14 thoughts on “Closer to Free

  1. Hi Christine!

    I love the way you think and I love the way you weave your words to create a beautiful picture. I personally have trouble relating to a lot of this particular article for a couple of reasons. I was fortunate enough that I felt very loved growing up. Being loved – and I’m talking about family love here – was default for me. Parents are supposed to say you’re pretty. I didn’t believe them, but I appreciated the position they were in. Ha! Also, your “hungry for love and acceptance” thought was a little different for my life . When I was in the working world I would say, “All I want is acceptance and respect…and I will settle for respect.” (Can you picture a tough work place?) But I am resigned to never feeling comfortable in my skin. You ultimately grew out of the skin torture. I won’t. No pity party here. This is the way it is.

    Similarly to the default love I felt from my parents I feel like God has always accepted me warts and all. Thankfully, He isn’t swayed by how I look. I don’t think he sees my blemishes or stature. I guess I take that for granted which I think is a blessing. But boy it would sure be nice to feel the self-confidence that I try to portray on the outside.

    I sometimes ponder what our definition of beauty would be if humans didn’t have eyes. I concluded that either textured skin people would be popular or those with an interesting voice tone would be popular. Ha!

    Through Jesus I am “free indeed” no doubt. But my earthly self envies those blessed with natural beauty. My favorite line in your article is, “Oh, the glorious freedom of not giving a crap.” I love the very thought! I have that glorious freedom in several areas of my life. Less drama, right?

    • Ahh yes, I’ve also imagined what it would be like if no one “saw.” No comparisons and envy and…well, we’d probably find a way to judge others anyway, right? Thanks for your honest comments!

  2. I struggled with who I am for a very long time. It wasn’t until I started a relationship with Jesus, the Christ that I actually realized who I am doesn’t matter only who I am in Him does. He’s all there is and all that really matters.

  3. I believe all humans naturally forge those links of acceptance and self confidence from our own sinful works in ways that result in a burdensome ball and chain. When we cast that yoke at the foot of the cross, we find the freedom in Jesus, and by His Spirit we can see ourselves and others through His eyes and truly accept and love as He does.

  4. Christine,
    As always, I love your heart, your way with words and, most of all, YOU. “Becoming” is my favorite song of all time and beautifully describes my journey back to the innocence of infancy before…..
    The older I get the more I realize we are all wounded by this fallen world (no matter how perfect our facade) and we have a choice every moment of every day to stay stuck in the damage or to face it, heal through it with God’s help and write new chapters.
    Thank you for your music and your words that always speak hope and encourage me to keep on keeping on.

    • Yes, Pegs, I agree. It’s tough to keep our hearts soft enough to let the healing happen. We will keep on keeping on!

  5. thanks for putting the words up…. I have listened to the song many times in my car (thanks apple music!) but couldn’t quite piece the story together.
    I’m 60 in June, and coming to terms with my age which is slipping past faster as I get older, and it’s hard to get rid of the vanity that is hard wired into us.

    love your work, now and from before.
    I never get tired of your music and have a renewed ability to listen with all the new technology that is available.

    • Yes, Lee, I feel that hard-wiring too. It’s tough to trust what good getting older can do. Thanks for your kind words.

  6. Christine that was deep never new. You are fearfully and wonderfully made I thought and think you are beautiful inside and out. We all fall short for sure, myself never have cared what people think about what I ware. Not a slave to fashion dictates. Besides our hair and what we ware is not who we are we are kings kids and that is the most important thing. Love Terri

  7. Beautiful sister! It always strikes me how I remember (or am at least familiar with) these moments or periods in your childhood. I never realized the impact they were having. For this one you were nine, so at least I can blame my cluelessness on only being six :-). I guess I have my share of life-changing events that you were also unaware of. Unfortunately, so was I. 🙂 I love you Chris.

    • Sweet brother! SO many of my good memories involve you: playing outside wherever we found ourselves : )
      I love you, David.

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