Water poured around me as I walked across the bridge on Saturday morning. Heavy and fast the drops fell, the wind shoving them under my umbrella and chilling my wet hand. It was the kind of day I’d usually prefer to stay safe in the dry indoors, but as I walked over the bridge, I realized I was loving being out in it. I felt alive as I faced into the wind and rain and kept on going.
I had dressed for it. I was wearing not just my raincoat but my rain pants and waterproof boots. I had even fastened a waterproof backpack cover over my purse. I wasn’t worried about having to sit for three hours in soggy jeans and sneakers, or having to carefully unfold and try to salvage the rain-soaked papers tucked into my purse.
Peeking out from under my umbrella (which I almost didn’t need with the rest of my coverings), I noticed a few others who had ventured out into the storm. Some were frowning as they hurried along, grasping their belongings close to them as they clung to their umbrellas. But the other group which didn’t seem to mind the rain any more than I did were the runners in their shorts. They weren’t lugging backpacks with books that would be damaged by the rain, or wearing heavy clothes that would soon be sopping and heavy and cold.
I’ve been thinking a lot these days about freedom, the kind of freedom that lets me respond and choose in accordance with the Spirit’s action. I have a sense of what it looks like and feels like, but I often find myself struggling to live in it. That walk in the rain helped me picture two steps back into freedom, the kind of freedom that lets me keep going and maybe even enjoy it when the wind is lashing huge raindrops up under my umbrella: strip down and cover up.
It reminded me to ask Jesus two questions when I'm not feeling free and can't find remember how to find my way back into freedom:
- What are you inviting me to take off?
- What are you inviting me to put on?
1. Strip down: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race set out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Everything that hinders: in my life, that’s often fear of what people might think, but it can also be a desire for security or control or change. God has been working on these with me lately, giving me one opportunity after another to practice trusting him with my fears. There’s a lifetime of work yet to be done in me, but already I’m noticing that it’s easier to run in the rain when I'm wearing shorts than when the heavy, soggy jeans of fear are clinging to my legs.
2. Cover up: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph 6:11) As Darrell Johnson points out, putting on the armor of God is actually putting on Christ who is the truth and who is our salvation and our righteousness and the Word of God.
I'm discovering this all over again too: In God’s kingdom, stripping down and covering up are not opposites but two sides of the same process. It is only as I put on Christ and know that my life is safely hidden with Christ in God that I stop needing all the layers of self-protection that end up weighing me down like sopping jeans when the weather turns ugly. I can only live the first question by living the second.
As I turn again and sit quietly in Christ's love (isn't it lovely how everything keeps bringing us back to this central invitation of Christ to make our home in his love?) I find myself stripped down and covered up at the same time. Stripped, at least for those moments, of my arrogance and independence, and hidden in Christ's gentle, protective love.
I watch Jesus model this process: knowing himself safely wrapped in the love of his Father, he stripped off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist, knelt, and took one disciple's foot after another in his hands, making his way around the circle of his friends. With Jesus covered up and stripped down, the light in him just kept shining more brightly. Especially as the weather turned sour.