Like me on a bright summer day swinging in a backyard swing. A child. Hair blowing in the breeze. Laughter riding on the clouds. Legs pumping faster and faster, harder and harder, lifting me higher and higher. Forward…back…forward…back. That old rusty swing set came alive, one leg lifting out of the cracked cement hole in the ground then landing with a loud thump back into the burrow. Lift…thump…lift…thump. A parents’ nightmare but no one dared stop me.
I was free.
I never realized why this memory was so precious to me until I became an adult. There were so many things we didn’t talk about after my eye accident. I was a young woman before I dealt with my stuff. I must have been 30 years old when I finally asked my mom, “Why didn’t we ever talk about this?” Her response was simple, “We didn’t know what you were going through. We thought you would talk about it when you were ready.” Bits and pieces have come together over the years. Some memories of that season have finally made some sense. Like me-in-the-swing.
After my eye surgery I didn’t do too well in the hospital. What child wants to spend day after day in a sterile hospital room separated from all she holds dear? What child looks forward to dark, lonely nights in a bed without her parents in the next room? What child finds comfort in strangers watching over her and changing her bandages? Thank heavens things are different now than they were back in the sixties. Gone are the strict rules and regulations that kept hospitals free from germs and infections. There’s only so much a 3-and-a-half-year-old-child can understand. So after a while, since everything that could be done for me had been done, my parents just took me home. I was so happy to be out of that cold hospital with all that colorless gray that the first thing I did was run to my swing.
No more hospital bed with the raised, steel bars. No more women with white hats and men in white coats. No more lonely, fearful nights. No more gray.
Nothing but blue skies. Bright sunshine. Singing birds. My cat. My bed. My family. My home.
My swing. The freedom swing.
With the sound of my laughter riding on the wind I pumped my short little legs as hard as I could. Faster and faster. Harder and harder. Higher and higher. I returned to the same backyard where that rock flew out from under the mower and crushed my eye, but I couldn’t have been any happier. In just a few short years I would be trapped in a different gray season. Sometimes freedom comes with a price. This price I paid in years. Years of not talking. Years of not grieving. Years of not understanding. Years of not swinging.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t miserable by a long shot. I had a great childhood. Wonderful, loving, supportive parents. An in-your-face younger sister who made life loud and looney. A church family that loved all over me and a community of friends that live on in my heart even today. I played in the woods, climbed trees, rode horses and learned to ski in the Potomac River. I grew up wearing a cheerleader’s uniform, running around a track and swinging a hockey stick. I dressed up for school dances and dressed down for parties. I hung out with girlfriends and went on dates. I got my driver’s license. I laughed some more, but sometimes laughing was better in the swing.
I always wondered why I couldn’t talk about what I was feeling in my heart…why I didn’t feel pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough…why I backed off when someone got too close…why I spent so much time comparing myself to others, thinking I would never measure up. When a soul is in conflict there’s not much peace in the spirit. Not knowing how to be honest I just packed it all in and down it went, as deep as I could stuff it, wondering why I couldn’t recapture that pure and uninhibited joy swinging in my backyard swing that hot summer day.
True freedom isn’t free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm,then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galations 5:1
As a young woman I let Jesus get into my mess and all that stuff I’d packed deep inside began to find its way out of darkness into light. As the showers of God’s grace rained down, seeds that laid dormant for so long began to sprout and bud. I began to talk and share. I began to grieve the loss of my eye. I began to understand God will always be enough for me…and…I learned to swing again. Like a child. Hair blowing in the breeze. Laughter riding on the wind. Legs pumping faster and faster, harder and harder, higher and higher. Forward…back…forward…back.
These days, my world is full of color. My favorite is yellow. I think it has something to do with the sun. More to do with the Son. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” (Psalm 84:11) I love me some blue sky and when I look up at the clouds I remember, “He makes the clouds His chariot and He rides on the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:3) But, I love the rain, too, because without it there would be no watering of the earth, no watering of my soul. “As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)
Maybe that’s why my memory is so sweet. God is all over it, all wrapped up in it. My Joy. Pure and uninhibited.
i. am. free.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36