"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The freedom experiment (and a coconut on the fridge)

I have a coconut sitting on top of my refrigerator right now. I’m not really sure what to do with it. One of my friends told me to hit it with a hammer, and another suggested a saw and screwdriver and drain out the milk.
I was thinking more along the lines of dynamite.

But regardless of how I actually manage to eat the thing, it’s actually indicative of a much larger part of a journey I am on: the quest to find my boundaries, the edge of the box, the brink of heresy, and to move beyond. To discover what rules I live by and to test them to the utmost as to whether they are indeed needed rules… or if they are just my own.

The desire is to cultivate in myself a radical freedom; in a way, it is the freedom experiment. Albert Camus said it best in that, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

And it starts with a coconut.

The freedom experiment began small enough: every time I went grocery shopping, I bought a food I’d never bought before and, preferably, had no idea what to do with. I found myself with the most bizarre vegetables you’d ever seen (even the cashier didn’t know what they were), mushrooms with unpronounceable names, and, most recently, a coconut.

I did it because I needed to break out of the box I’d been living in regarding food and my habits therein; there was so much life to be lived even in as forgotten a place as the grocery store aisles, and I was going to find it.

But then, the freedom experiment grew.

Now, I examine everything—not just food, but theology, schedules, conversations, relationships, finances.  When I come upon something from which I shrink back, I ask, “Why? What rule is that, who said that? Is it the Lord? If not, why am I giving it power?” I write down my answer, I write down a way to break that boundary, to push my limits. In every area, I look for the edge of my comfort zone and seek to find the life beyond it. (So that way, when I’m the only girl in a gym with a dozen sweaty men mostly twice my size, and we’re all practicing wrestling and jiu jitsu and kickboxing and how to choke each other until we black out in my quest for me to get beyond my comfort zone—well, I remind myself that the terror is helping me grow.)

This is a kingdom life, for as my dad told me this afternoon: “Risk is overrated.” If I am living a Romans Road gospel—a gospel of John 3:16 and nothing else—then risk is a great enemy. But if instead, I am living in the kingdom of God, risk is overrated; that life has far less to do with sin management than it does with the glory, will, life, battle, and beauty of God Himself and His kingdom—then my life is one of exploration and adventure. This is the kingdom; live in its entirety. Do not be so afraid of sin or error that you never seek truth; never fear being wrong more than you fear not finding what’s right.

Therein was the freedom experiment. Who said I couldn’t learn pole dancing? Where was that in the Bible? An unspoken rule I didn’t need to adhere to. So I took a workshop and met some wonderful women. Why did I not want to watch a horror movie? There were far more graphically evil scenes in my beloved Scripture. I let go of my prejudice. Why didn’t I confront my friend on a serious relationship issue? Because I usually wasn’t that abrupt; another rule of, “Be nice… too nice”—a rule I was clearly not intended to live by. So I confronted my friend and broke it.

And I took martial arts by myself, decided to move halfway across the country, trained horses with previously taboo methods, read books I never would’ve touched, ate raw cookie dough at 11 o’clock at night. I became more confrontational and more reconciliatory, tried beer and alcohol and wine, sought out untraditional spirituality, changed my schedule radically, learned about sex, and told people to their face that they were dead wrong. I went to a bar, changed my wardrobe, prayed with a total stranger, wrote down my dreams from the night before, started my business, wrote this blog post. I have become more angry, more joyful, hate more, love more, pray more… live more.

And every time I find the edge of my comfort zone, I find the rule or fear or belief keeping me there, and I pray over it, and I seek whether or not it is a stronghold that should be broken for me, a rule I was never meant to live under, a burden I was not supposed to bear, or if it is truly a grace to me, my Lord, and others, and should be kept.

The freedom experiment seeks a radical freedom, a radical grace.

But most of all, it seeks a radical God.

Recent encounters forced me to confront my own version of heresy in which I locked Him in a box instead of embodying what one of my friends says: the truth is endless. I was haunted by the C.S. Lewis quote, “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like.’” If we are finite, and He is infinite; if we never are uncomfortable with who He is, it means we have choked Adonai Elohim down to a small box roughly the size of our comfort zone.

I don’t do the freedom experiment because I am particularly brave, because I am particularly radical. I do it because I am not.