My bloodline is filled with men and women who lived and breathed their passion and determination to be free.
They didn’t just complain about their state of affairs, like I’ve been known to do, they nearly moved heaven and earth to change them.
William Bradford, of Plymouth Colony fame, came to our continent on the Mayflower in 1620 after suffering religious persecution in England. You know the story.
If you’d like to read the book William Bradford wrote called Of Plymouth Plantation, you can purchase by clicking HERE. It is the primary historical document from that time.
Those early colonists must have been driven, not only by the desire to escape persecution, but a primal drive to live without any restraint, out from under tyranny.
To say it was tough in Plymouth Colony is an understatement. Many of those who survived the treacherous sea voyage didn’t last much longer than that.
William Bradford’s wife was one who didn’t make it.
That disastrous first year was followed by many more like it, interspersed with some that were relatively calm by comparison. The Thanksgiving celebration was in gratitude to God and their new friends, the native Americans, for the bountiful harvest in 1621 which followed their first year of sickness, hunger and death.
I marvel at those colonists’ fortitude, grit, tenacity and dedication to what they believed God wanted them to do in this utterly, literally foreign land.
A part of it, I’m sure, was just that they had no choice but to make it work. Returning to England was not an option.
They were devoted to establishing a community where they could worship, work and raise their families in liberty. Out from under the thumb of a dictatorial leader.
William Bradford is my 13th great grandfather.
As I follow the long line down our family tree to me, I find many others like him who sacrificed everything to follow their callings, their hopes, their dreams.
There was something in them, as I think there is in all of us, that screams out for freedom.
Not screaming in rebellion against God or the law of the land. But for freedom to be who they were born to be.
We are all on this quest to one degree or another. This year I’ve finally found a place of more acceptance of myself, but I still have a long way to go.
Like the Pilgrims, I think we all long for the freedom to express the convictions and values that mean the most to us, such as freedom of religion, justice, integrity, faithfulness and hard work.
It’s usually not difficult expressing ideas that are historically in the mainstream. When we know that there are at least a few people who agree with us, it’s strengthening and emboldening.
On an another level, closer to home than our general opinions on politics or that bad call the referee made against our team on the last play, I believe we are also created to manifest those things that make us uniquely us.
Things like our tastes, preferences, gifts, talents, desires, hopes and dreams.
However, these personal aspects of ourselves are much harder to reveal to the world – at least they have been for me.
If you go deeper, below the surface, into that place where I stand alone as an individual, unlike anyone else, it can be scary and intimidating for me to expose the unique traits that make up the whole picture of who I am.
This year I started to explore that deeper part of myself and discovered a lot.
I realized that not unlike my ancestor William Bradford, I have been living under a tyranny of sorts. Under a thumb of pressure and expectation from inside and out.
Some of it is just bad mental programming. Some is self-imposed.
At a very young age I developed what I call “survival thought patterns” that taught me to hide my true self.
For as far back as I can remember, I didn’t feel that my opinions were valued. I was not truly “seen” by certain important people in my life.
If I were to express a thought or a contrary opinion, I was bullied into shutting up or agreeing, or both.
Even as a very small child, I remember having something important to share and being laughed at, misunderstood or ignored.
My reaction to that would sometimes be to get angry because of my frustration at not being taken seriously. Not being heard. That reaction was met with angry punishment.
So, I learned to hide my true self.
I became a chronic underachiever, afraid to express my gifts for fear that they would be minimized, disdained or worse, ignored.
This year I’ve discovered these things and more about my past.
I’ve looked at the difficulty that I had processing my childhood challenges from a different perspective. I see the fallout and how the lifelong, negative, self-critical thought patterns were birthed back then.
It has been enlightening and life-changing and now, I’m ready to move on!
“I’m coming out!” as the song says, and I’m excited.
It’s not that I’m about to start showing off or flaunting anything. I’m not going crazy with it here!
I have no desire to show “the world out there” that I’m actually quite special.
It’s not about getting back at those who could have shown appreciation for my uniqueness when I was an innocent child.
All it is is this: I’m looking forward to becoming the ME God made me to be.
The me that likes to live outside the box, against the flow of current culture.
The me who is the introvert that craves solitude but also loves people.
The girl who is smart and capable and caring.
The lifelong student who loves to learn and enjoys a challenge (even when it’s scary), and has done a bunch of different stuff in her life because of that.
This freedom means breaking off and casting away the old, useless, debilitating armor that I no longer require.
It’s deprogramming my brain from the limiting thought patterns and reprogramming it with eternal ones.
Thoughts that say that I accept and believe that I have intrinsic value.
Value that is not based on performance or obedience to a tyrant for whom good enough never is.
I deeply, in my heart, accept that I am indescribably precious and treasured just because of the beautiful, gifted, unique daughter of God that I am.
There is no more comparison of myself to others, no evaluation, no self-critique.
Just acceptance of what was and what is and anticipation of what can be.
I have a new freedom this Thanksgiving and I’m grateful. What’s true about me is true about you. I hope you find your freedom, too!