My sandals crunch on the dry, gray gravel as I headed toward the steps. I exhale, hoping to send away the anxious thoughts and butterflies.
I’m about to see a relative for the first time in months — a relative with whom I’ve had a relationship that’s been unsettling, confusing, and even painful.
I feel weight pressing me down like gravity growing stronger.
We’ve all walked in my shoes. Whether family, friend, or outright foe, we face relationships that make us unsteady, unsure, or unhappy.
The answer I have found is a set of words that wafts fresh hope into my heart, every single time I speak them.
“You are free.”
I am free.
Even in the worst of conflicts, I am free.
The reason the words hold freedom is because they’re founded on truth.
I am a human being, with my own perspective, my own pain points, and my own personality. Conflict with other humans is inevitable. But because I trust in the forgiveness of Jesus, I have learned release from my guilt.
And now, I am learning how to release others.
These words, “You are free,” remind me that the only bruises capable of binding me to bitterness are the ones I give permission to.
Only who I choose can chain me.
Only hurtful words I hang onto can warp my heart.
These statements are not dismissive of the reality of the pain of words, actions, animosities, or choices that others bring into our lives.
Instead, they are an offering of hope.
There is healing after pain, redemption after the ragged, jagged rips that tear our hearts in two. There is life after death.
My job is simply to receive resurrection.
- I get to choose to not replay the words, to not clutch onto cruel presuppositions about others’ opinions.
- I get to choose whether or not to slam the door on sour memories, or invite them in.
- I get to choose to release the fear, the failures, and the heavy, heavy burden of bitter resentment.
And the reason I can choose?
Someone else chose it about me.
I’ve received the grace of God, and now I can give it away.
My identity is wrapped up in the Christ who conquered all the power of pain — not the participation in pain, but the prerogative of pain to create and command my identity.
This is freedom, for it forges the path toward healing.
A wound only ever heals if we remove what made the hurt in the first place. Leaving it lodged tight and gritty leads only to more pain.
I repeat the mantra, matching my steps towards the door with the words that will me to peace:
“You are free.”
And I am.