Letting Go: Free hands, heart, and body
She stood facing the ocean. On three sides were tall cliffs. Isolated, safe, with the smell of salt on the air, she stared at the horizon. Beneath her feet, the sand was packed tight. No footprints soiled the ground stretched to the left or right. Next to her, only him. Hand-in-hand they faced forward with nothing but horizon and ocean for miles and miles.
Suddenly a Samaritan woman filled her mind; the story of an out-cast woman and a well. Carrying an empty jug and some secrets and shame, the Samaritan made the trek to the well, expecting to be alone, but instead met Jesus. After only a few minutes with this man, she dropped her jug, forgetting what she came for, and ran back to her village to tell everyone what she found: Him. The one who sees all and saves all. That woman, that abandoned empty jug, filled her thoughts as she looked out over the ocean...and a voice came on the wind.
"The war is over. Leave your burdens."
In the stillness, she searched for her burdens. "What water jug can I leave behind?" To the beach she brought nothing. It was just her and him. And her heart beat faster. She placed her hand on her chest to slow the beating and her palms landed on something hard. Opening her hand she found an old-fashioned key on a chain. Rusty and intricate, she pulled it from around her neck and into her open hand.
"This is the key to the future you've imagined for yourself." said the voice on the wind "A future of worldly comfort: homes and children and career paths. Throw it in the ocean."
Her fingers wrapped around the familiar form of the key as she drew her arm back and hurled it into the ocean before them. Releasing it, she thought of the land they planned to buy one day. The parties she hoped to host, the home she longed to fill with babies and grand-babies. As the key left her hands, she felt those dreams drain into the ocean along with the chain. Empty handed, she stared at the horizon and a surprising sense of peace filled her. A burden much heavier than the key that once lay on her neck was lifted.
"In exchange for your plans for the future, I give you what you were made for: Eternity. Limitless horizons and hope lay before you, dear one. No home on this earth that key would've fit will do for you."
Excited by what she heard and eager to see what other weights she could drop, she frantically searched around her for what else could go. "Be still," she heard. Closing her eyes, she dropped her hands to her side, stretching her fingers wide so that she could feel the wind passing between each one. She felt the wind wrap around something she didn't remember putting on, a ring on her right hand. Looking down she saw a signet ring bearing the logo of her church. Like a family crest, she had been wearing it loyally for years without knowing it.
"I would like your sole allegiance." said the voice firmly and then softer, "Let me be your family."
She slipped the ring off her finger and tossed it into the sea. She thought about her church, her community, her family. She would do anything, go anywhere for these people, and they had the authority to build her up or crush her. Perhaps, she had given them too much authority. Her mind went to all the times she asked others for advice before she asked God, before she searched the Word. How many truths had she accepted from a source other than God himself? Instead of feeling loss, releasing the ring made her feel somehow more securely rooted. Only pledging herself to one freed her to love and serve many more. Another weight lifted.
Standing lighter, more hopeful, she felt the wind pick up and catch her long hair. It whipped the strands around her face and then, like magic, it all swept up at once and tied at the back of her neck.
"It's time to stop hiding your face, beautiful one," said the voice.
Without her hair framing her face, she felt the wind on her cheeks. For the first time, without a wall of hair strategically placed to hide the scars on her neck and cheeks, she felt warmth. Her neck felt strong, tall, and graceful. Her head lifted high with confidence and dignity instead of bowed in insecurity. She removed her glasses, the nonprescription ones she bought online to hide her face and tossed them into the ocean. No longer needing them to hide and never having needed them to see clearly, she felt beautiful.
"You're free!" shouts the voice and the wind picks up.
But she misinterprets the wind for a storm and becomes afraid. Trembling, she whimpers, "I'm scared. So many times I've felt I was turning a corner, so many times I felt the war was finally over, and each time more pain awaited me. How can I trust that I'm free?"
The wind stills and the waves pick up on the horizon, bringing the tide in to touch her toes.
"I'm not promising a future free of pain this side of the horizon, dear one." whispers the wind. "I'm promising freedom from the chains of burdens that pain so often ensnares you in. You no longer have to endure pain alone and leave tangled in fear. I have swallowed up pain and death, not so that you will never taste them, but so that you don't have to be consumed by them and carry them around forever. You are free to breathe, enjoy, worship, cry, and confidently take new ground in this life knowing what you were made for. You are free, dear one. You can claim that."
The water receded, leaving her feet cool and wet. The sand beneath their feet was packed firm and unbroken. Spongy and soft, it cracked under their toes as they took steps, like no-one had ever stepped where they were walking ever before.
"This is new ground," said the wind, "and what you've released here, in front of him, is released in the physical world as well. You are free indeed. A new time is coming and here is my promise to you: