I always laugh at the question “tell us about yourself.” I don’t do well with open-ended questions. My mind swells with more questions and possibilities. I envision hopes, dreams, fears, and failures. I picture large cups of black coffee and my two cats sun bathing. I envision college students and survivors of human trafficking. I see large fields of wildflowers and my husband trying to make some weird concoction in the kitchen. My Bible stuffed in my brown leather tote and my red car with over 300 hail dents splattered across come to mind. When I think about myself, these are the images that flash before me.
But I imagine the answer to that infamous question begs for something deeper. What is at my core? What defines me? What about my story changed everything? When did Jesus intervene? How has Jesus rescued me and made me, “me”?
I think at the core of my heart is freedom. That seven letter word speaks to me more than any other word in the English language. Sometimes to a fault.
When I reflect on my testimony and the years of abuse and insecurity that create it, freedom is what I sought. Freedom from fear, insecurity, abuse, misunderstanding, silence. Freedom is what I needed.
When I think about my college years and how I desperately wanted to be liked and wanted by human standards, what I actually craved, was freedom. Gospel freedom.
When I think about sitting across from my counselor and an H2O church staffer during my junior year of college, I think about freedom. I think about the Gospel story they offered.
When I think about my decision to go on staff with H2O church at Ohio State, I pictured hundreds of college students desperate to hear about true freedom. A freedom that breaks through society’s false freedom.
And now, in my most recent venture in ministry, I’m working directly with women who live, very literally, without freedom.
Human trafficking broke my heart years ago. I couldn’t shake the image of someone being so invaluable to another human. Although my image of human trafficking was clouded by Hollywood’s portrayal, I knew I couldn’t breathe another minute knowing an estimated 40 million men, women, and children were/are slaves.
I’ve been on staff with H2O church in Columbus since I graduated in 2013. I’ve loved my time working for a campus church. My character has been refined and prodded and sanded and scraped (thank God) much like the 1 Peter 1:7 description. I’ve worked closely with college women who aren’t living in freedom and I’ve been in seasons where I felt once again trapped by my past.
Recently, I had the opportunity to continue being a Reliant missionary with a local Columbus nonprofit called She Has A Name. She Has A Name is a gospel-centered nonprofit that seeks to educate, collaborate, and empower the abolition community. We take Jesus’s call to protect and know society’s “least of these” very seriously. Working for an organization that fights for the freedom of others has offered me an indescribable amount of freedom in my own life.
I’m passionate about people, all people experiencing the freedom God’s grace offers. I think this freedom-grace gives us the opportunity to take risks and be bold. I think it allows us to step outside of our comfort zones and break the mold. I think it allows us to use our voice and speak up for others. I think it allows us to fail (epically) and learn the hard way. I think this freedom gives us hope and lets us see redemption. We have freedom to rest and celebrate dance and mourn. We have freedom to be right where we are or cannon ball into something new. I think freedom-grace humbles us and reminds us that life isn’t about us. I think our God-given freedom is about something so much more than our comfortable lives.
Jesus was the ultimate picture of freedom. He rejected societal norms and fought for people without freedom. He went to the Cross to offer freedom for ALL. I think the freedom modeled and graciously given to us by Jesus is why we need to fight for freedom in our lives and in our world.
We pursue freedom for ourselves by rejecting the lie that we have to be/act/look a certain way. We can rest in our secure identity and live out the freedom that rests in that truth. We can dig deeper into what our Gospel-freedom is.
We pursue freedom for others by caring about things that matter. Wealth, image, success (false freedoms), those paths don’t lead to freedom. In fact, they seem to enslave us. Caring about things that matter is sharing the Gospel boldly and bravely in whatever circle that looks like for you. Jesus offers freedom, real, true, gritty, beautiful freedom and we HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO communicate that to people.
Jesus offered me freedom 25 years ago. It took me 20 years to accept that freedom and it takes a conscious effort every single day to continue living in that freedom. But it’s worth it. Gospel freedom is the end all be all. Without the Gospel and the freedom Jesus offered us all those years ago, there would be no hope. There would be no real life.
We have the opportunity to model our lives in Gospel- freedom and share that freedom with everyone in our sphere.
Today, I hope you know your freedom or at least feel reminded of it. If you find yourself living against Gospel- freedom, speak up. Find a friend, go on a coffee date, and confess the ways you’re rejecting freedom. We’re all in this together, folks. We won’t do it perfectly, but freedom is everything.