Radical Trust and Wild Freedom by Allie Papke-Larson
From September 2015 through September 2017, I lived and worked in an intentional community located in the North Cascades of Washington State named Holden Village. my time in the village deeply shaped me and I want to share with you a piece of what it felt like to begin to leave that place. The community saw the best parts of who I was and spoke to it, calling those parts out of me and letting them have freedom to play, take on responsibility, and be embraced. You can understand, then, why as I was getting ready to leave, I became frightened. I began to wonder what would happen when the best parts of me would no longer be called upon? What if who I had become could only exist in certain, perfect circumstances and would be washed away once I left the place where I had been created? The truth of who I was, it felt, of where my worthiness and light came from, was being lent to me by this village, and would be taken back once it was time for me to leave. As I was preparing to leave, I realized that I needed trust. And so I started to pray to trust that who I was, my light, and my worthiness was not circumstantial and would not disappear as soon as I left this place. I prayed that God would give me faith in who God had created me to be.
On Reformation Sunday I preached for LCM|Canterbury for the first time. Our readings that Sunday came from John and Romans, reminding us that we are all sinners, and fall short of the glory of God. However, we aren't left there, under the law and slaves to sin forever. We are told it is through grace by Christ that we are made free.
It has often felt to me that Reformation Sunday, and maybe the Lutheran ethos at its worst, is more a reminder of our hopelessness under the law instead of our hopefulness under Christ. It seems we all collectively sigh a breath of relief and think "thank God we don't live by the law, because then we would all be screwed," on Reformation Sunday. This has had me thinking of part of the Lutheran Identity that I have been challenging within myself. It comes from the understanding, one that Martin Luther loved, that we are all broken. I think so many of us have felt the heavy weight of being told or feeling that we are broken, or not enough, all of our lives. The real burden, or perhaps sin of this, is when we focus so much on that understanding that we start to believe that being broken is who we are, and not just part of who we are.
This reminds me of when I was preparing to leave Holden. I was focusing too much on my own brokenness, believing it wasn't my own light that was shining forth, but only the light the village had given me. This belief was holding me captive and wasn't allowing me to fully see the brightness of my own light. I was responding with the usual sigh of hopelessness under the law.
What would happen if instead I practiced responding with faith? Faith that I was not created to be held captive by sin, or the law; but created by the love of God to act with wild freedom in that love. Why should I focus on how I fall short of the Glory of God when God has made me in so much love? Isn't this just me not having faith in the creative, powerful, joyful love that God has made me in? Isn't this just me making my brokenness and myself much too big, and the full nature of God much too small?
In honor of this past Reformation Sunday, instead of worrying about our own broken nature, let's practice the radical act of trusting the beautiful people God has made us to be, and turn our focus on the full nature of God, and see what happens when we let ourselves live into the wild freedom to love each other and love this world as God first loved us.
This story was featured in LCM|Canterbury's Fall 2019 Newsletter.