“Higher!” I cried.
Leaning in, my hands grasping his, my dad pushed me up as I balanced my little four-year-old body against his feet. I giggled and he laughed as he stretched his legs as far as they would go.
“I’m flying!” I looked down at my dad and saw his smile. It filled every inch of his face and reflected my own.
Suddenly, I twisted.
“I’ve got you.” His words whispered comfort to my little heart. “Ready to try again?”
Without a second thought I squealed with delight, ready for another turn. I jumped up, got into position and with my dad’s help, began to soar once more.
Oh, to be a child again. To live in absolute trust: free to try, to fail, and to try once more. No fear. No shame. No question.
I loved to play with my dad like that, to feel the support of his feet, the strength of his legs as he lifted me high above the ground. I listened carefully to each and every instruction so there would be minimal risk for falling. Well, that, and I simply loved to obey my dad.
It wasn’t until I had my own children and played the same game that I realized my dad did most of the work to help me fly. All I did was follow his instructions, he did the rest. Balancing. Steadying. Watching. Even when I stretched my arms out wide, he was ready to catch me just in case I fell.
I felt like I could to do anything with my dad to support me.
Free to soar.
Free to live.
Free to soak in all that life had to offer.
My early days as a follower of Jesus unfolded in a similar way. There was such joy, such ease as I learned more about Him and His character, soaking in truth from His Word.
Until I tumbled. Life happened and the worries of the world replaced the wonder of worshipping the Creator. My eyes shifted from gazing at Him to focusing on the chaos swirling around me. Somewhere along the way fear set in. Deep, paralyzing fear.
“What if I fall again?” I whimpered.
“I’ll catch you,” He replied. “Just like before.”
Then came the doubt.
“But what if you’re not strong enough to catch me?” I wondered.
“I’ll always be strong enough,” He assured.
And then the distrust.
“I don’t think you can do this anymore,” I whined. “This is too hard. It hurts too much.”
“I can,” He declared. “Trust me.”
I felt trapped and afraid. My heart longed to soar with abandon, just as I had done as a child with my dad, but the risks seemed too great. For a while I tried to fly on my own, controlling what I could, ignoring the instructions I had learned, thinking my way would bring the freedom I so desired.
I could not have been more wrong.
Finally I began to realize that my choices actually stole the very freedom I sought. I became tied to perfectionism. Chained to comparison. Locked down in despair. A slave to shame.
I longed to return to my youth, to those early days of my relationship with Jesus, but I didn’t know what to do, how to go back. And then I remembered how I used to fly with my dad. Maybe his instructions would help. . .
“I walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.” (Psalm 119:45, NLT)
“Cling to my hand.”
I stood empty-handed with nothing but my brokenness to offer.
“Lean into me.”
I held back, frozen in fear.
I took a step closer.
“Hold my hand.”
I reached out, hands shaking as the fear and shame melted away.
“Lean in. I’ve got you.”
The place felt familiar. The closer I moved toward Jesus, the more I realized He had been with me for every step, every moment, every breath, and every tumble. His instructions weren’t to confine, but to keep me safe. And just as with my dad, I realized the more I obeyed, the more I followed His commands, the greater the work He actually did in my heart, freeing my soul.
I shifted my gaze once more, this time away from the circumstances that tripped me up and trapped my heart. I turned my eyes toward Jesus, fully and completely, for with Him, by obeying His instructions, I am free to soar once more.
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)
Do you feel free to soar as you follow Jesus? Why or why not?