I am 30,000 feet in the air flying north to one of my favorite cities, a city I spent two years living in, a city I have traveled to at least 20 times, New York City. Travel has always kept me grounded, ironically. I’m always closer to God and my most creative self, starting with buckling my seatbelt and placing my reading material in the backseat pockets of the passenger in front of me. Most people don’t enjoy flying but for me, being on an airplane is one of my most favorite places in the world. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t take my first flight until I was 17 and ever since that flight, I have flown all over the world from India and Turkey, to Spain and Brazil. Perhaps it’s because adventure and something new, someone new awaits. Perhaps it’s because I am such a doer, driving hard at life, and being on an airplane forces me to sit still, think, sleep, dream, write, read, create. A flight overseas speaks to my soul. The journey in the air, without question, is often one of the highlights of my travels. I’ve missed this journey.
I have discovered who I am over the course of my years of traveling. What I love, what scares me, what inspires me, who inspires me and how creativity speaks to me and infuses new ideas in me. People, places and things are at the core of the discovery, but it’s more that my heart and my brain pause from life and become something different for a short period of time.
I get away to get grounded.
I travel to find myself.
It makes no sense at all and yet it does for me.
I always invite God with me, as my number one travel companion. He never fails.
And here I am, in New York with virtually no agenda, having only told one friend I was coming. Yet, there is an agenda. There is one item that I have asked God for: freedom.
I am going to NY to set free and to be set free.
A couple weeks ago I was talking with my life coach and about halfway through our session, she stopped me and said, “Ann, it seems that your former marriage has a real power over you. You have talked about it a lot not only today but in our other conversations. He has moved on, he is living his life. You have to do the same. You need to be free.
Tears filled my eyes. She was right.
“That is something you will have to figure out. You can write a letter and burn the letter. You can scream and break things. You can go to the ocean and pray. You can do anything and everything until you know – in YOUR heart – you are free. That is for you to discover. Also…you forgive."
I thought I had already forgiven.
She gently says to me, “forgiveness isn’t a one-time action. It’s layered. And often has to happen over and over again. Until you’re free.”
A few days later I booked a trip to New York to be freed from my failed marriage and to forgive. Or maybe, to forgive and to be free.
I discovered I wasn’t free from the pain of my divorce when a few things happened.
I went on my first date which led to a few more dates. With a lovely, lovely man. A man who was – is – consistent and kind. Generous with his words. Honest and transparent. And somewhere between the dating and the getting to know this new person, lie an insecure, captive, unfree, doubtful Ann. An Ann that I didn’t know. An Ann that I didn’t like. And an Ann that certainly wouldn’t be able to move on, to be in a healthy relationship, without getting to the root of the insecurity. I started to doubt myself and replay my past narrative into my future. I couldn’t trust, I couldn’t open my heart and I remained guarded. But thankfully, I recognized that this wasn’t me, my authentic self and I surrendered it to God and booked a trip to NYC.
And then the victim language and language of my failed marriage was still very active on my lips. I gave that language meaning, it then created thoughts and beliefs that weren’t helpful. Weren’t the truth. And were keeping me weighed down.
You see, when you lose someone you love and a marriage you thought would last and a future you had planned, it wrecks you. And it brings you into days and weeks and seasons of all kinds of grief. Tears and anger, pain and purpose. And, dare I say unexpected hope and joy. Because, despite the plans being shattered and the heart being broken, God shows up and gives us perspective and mercy and love and eyes to see new things, and belief that my story isn’t over and that my best days are still ahead.
As I navigate a new chapter of grief, I had to get very clear with myself and do something I am not sure how to do be free and forgive until I can step into the new version of Ann that God has for me.
I won’t be able to parent Zoey to the best of my ability.
I won’t be able to be in a healthy, good, authentic relationship with a man.
I won’t lead my company as well as I could.
I won’t have peace.
I won’t live the life God has for me.
And I hear God saying to me, “Ann, I know you want to move on. I know you want the chapter closed. I know you want to begin again. And you will. But, let’s pause. Let’s take a trip. Let’s get you the freedom you deserve. I already paid the price. I already set you free. But I know this is hard. So let me take you by the hand – by the heart – and help you.”
This is the God I have come to know and love.
And He showed up.
For three hours I prayed and journaled.
God brought me to John 9 in the bible – when Jesus heals the blind man.
I unpacked this, I read all the commentary and it was so clear to me. So clear.
When we have pain, when we have an ailment, when we are disabled, we want to blame someone else. This is what happens in the text. People wanted to know the sin of others to fault them for the man being blind. But Jesus doesn’t place blame or shame on anyone else. Instead he says this: "[our pain] happened so that the works of God may be displayed in us (v.3).”
Healing, freedom and forgiveness aren’t contingent on other people. It’s between me and Jesus. So that his glory may shine and I can walk in wholeness, with new eyes and a new perspective. So that his great works are seen in me.
My freedom is my choice and it is between me and God. My story? It’s not about a failed marriage. It’s about God’s redemption, His purpose and His plan. It’s about trust. It’s about bold faith and leaving it all at the foot of the cross, the place where we all were given freedom.
I’m free. And as my dear friend texted me while I was in NYC, “you’re in the middle of a miracle.” Yes, I am.
I went to NY to be free and to set someone free and it happened. I prayed a bold prayer for God to meet me and within 24 hours, He did. It doesn’t always happen this way, but I am sure glad that this time it did.
Next chapter: freedom.
Thank you, Jesus.