Wild and Free and a whole lot of selfish: Reflections on what it means to be a free spirit

The palm of her hand lay flat against the cream, granite countertop, smudges of toothpaste and puddles of water surrounding her small fingers. Beneath the very tip of her nails were remnants of dirt left over from an earlier outdoor adventure. I stood, lurking in the doorway. Large, brown eyes looked up at me and the very tip of her sun kissed nose scrunched up as she lowered her chin towards her chest.

“I don’t want to do this. Mommy likes me to clean up my mess, but I don’t want to do it. I just like to do what I want to do. I just like to be free.”

And from the mouth of a six-year-old girl came the very essence of human nature.

We just like to do what we want to do.

I just like to do what I want to do.


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All good things are wild and free. Or so said, Thoreau. And so said me, for most of my life.

It’s been a sort of mantra I’ve painted on flowerpots and defiantly declared to my mother when I didn’t feel like brushing my hair. I love the idea of going barefoot and wearing flowers in my hair and at a moments notice, hopping on a plane to who knows where.

“Wander,” culture tells me. Run wild. Free spirited.

But each morning, for a month, I’ve heard the whisper of my God.

“What does it mean to have a free spirit? What does it mean to be wild and free?”

And I am beginning to realize that there truly is a difference between walking freely with the Holy Spirit and simply having a mindset content with and excited for change and movement and new experiences.

For me, one revolves around the freedom I hold to make my own decisions and go where I want to go. The other, around the call of one greater than my own desires and inhabitations.

I could be the poster child for what people see in my generation. A nomad. A wanderer. Each year after college brought something new. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t loved it. I’ve rocked babies and taught myself how to apply for grants. I’ve worked in inner city schools. Written curriculum and driven mini-buses down Broadway at rush hour. I’ve worked with both the underserved and the privileged and seen how we are all really the same at the core of what we want and who we are.

Most of those choices were made in an attempt to follow the Lord’s prompting in my heart. However, in each of those seasons, there was a tension that I am only now beginning to recognize. In my attempt to go where life took me—to be free spirited, and unattached—there was always, deep down a focus on what I wanted. A desire to be independent above all else—a desire to have the option to up and go at any moment.

There was a fear of committing to something because it could keep me from doing something else. From something that might be “better.” From something more “Jesus focused” or more tailored to my skills and passions. From traveling. From going back to school. From a dream job. From riding off into the sunset on a white horse with prince charming.

From keeping me from doing what I might want to do.

And in a bed-bug infested bed in the heat of an Indian night, He spoke to me and told me that this would never work. “You can’t plan for my call, Audrey. Root where you’re planted. Don’t think ahead to what you might one day do.” I heard His voice and let it sink in as I stared at the shadows of the palm trees dancing against the wall.

Yet, still—my spirit fights back to grasp on to my own way. And I am beginning to recognize that despite my love for the wild and for an unconventional lifestyle, my spirit is not free. It is selfish.

My so-called “independent nature” is actually an inability to let something or someone else change my idea of how things should go. To actually let God write my entire story. My desire to be free spirited is actually a fear of not having things my own way.

A free spirit is more than simply being unconventional and independent. It is more than being energized by the idea of a wandering adventure ahead.

A truly free spirit is always under submission to a great and freeing God. It is able to say, “not my will and wish but yours.” It is not independent but DEPENDENT on the voice of the Lord.

Because sometimes, walking freely with the Spirit means staying still for a while. Rooting deep. Letting go of what you thought you wanted or needed and accepting the gift of something so much better. It means dreaming three years ahead and including the same house or the same job or the same people.

And then, it’s feeling the freedom to let go of those dreams should you be asked to do so.

And at some point, I have no doubt that I will be. Because if what I have known and read and seen is true, Jesus is always asking us to lay down what we want for His greater purpose. But in that, there is greater freedom than anything we could try and give ourselves.

So, I say to you. And to me. Run wild, darling. Be free. Live with wild abandon.

But remember that all good things come from God. And only He can give you the freedom that you’re looking for.

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