Free to be Free

The walk in love. podcast is for anyone who wants to be inspired by simple things that can make a big difference. During each episode of this podcast, I will share a short story that I hope encourages and inspires you to choose joy + walk in love every day.

Todays story is dedicated to the kid inside all of us

There is something inside of us that wants to be free.

It's what makes us scream and laugh while we barrel down the tracks of a roller coaster, or stick our arm out of the car window during the first hot days of summer.

It's the moments where we don't care what we look like or who is watching or what others might think.

As I've stepped into fatherhood, I've noticed that even at my most free self, I don't hold a candle to my daughter June, who just turned 4 last week.

She is the epitome of being free when she plays. She'll run, with arms flailing, hair blowing, and screams bellowing from somewhere deep within, with no agenda or goal. She'll make up elaborate, imaginative stories as she walks around with leftover marker lids on her fingers, acting like they are spiders wearing boots. (And just so you know, the spider from her right hand is named Cherry and the spider from her left hand is named Taytoe.)

Recently, on a cloudy day, while visiting my sister in San Diego, we packed up our kids and headed to the beach. A gentle rain fell as we walked with kids and cameras in hand to gaze at the Pacific ocean and breathe in the salty air. There was no real purpose, other than to just go and be at the beach.

June had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the beach, and if you have kids then you know that waking a kid up can be a risky ordeal at times! They could wake happier than ever, or need a good 45 minutes to start using words and their limbs again. So, naturally, I was worried that by taking a short nap while we drove to the beach, it would dampen her beach experience.

When we arrived at the sandy beach parking lot, I nervously opened the van door of our rental car, unbuckled her, and lifted her out into the cold, rainy air, while she whimpered and rubbed her eyes.

But then...

She saw the ocean, the sand, and the wide-open stretches of the beach.

And she was ready to go.

Within seconds of walking across the parking lot to the sand, June, along with her cousins Max and Micah, was running up and down the long sandy coast through puddles, seagulls, and groups of people while screaming, "Let's Run!" "They're coming!" "Look out!", and all the things kids yell while they pretend and play.

All three kids were instantly covered in sand as they kneeled down to pick up shells. Their shoes were soaked from the puddles left by the high tide.

And none of that mattered at all because they were free of any worry, any judgment or really, anything...

June comes alive at the beach in ways I can't adequately express in words. She, at times, can be a timid and shy child, but when her feet touch the sand it's like a switch flips and she is re-born as Brave June. She's unafraid of the sounds, the people, the birds or the icy water. She takes her shoes off and dips those toes right in no matter what the temperature.

We visited three different beaches while on our vacation in Southern California, and at every single one, she had the time of her life. It didn't matter the temperature, the time of day or the activity involved, she just lit up, ran full speed, and enjoyed it.

And as I watch her, I can't help but feel like I should be near a beach so I can know this more free, brave daughter of mine -- one that I don't see as much as I would like to during our normal day to day lives in Pennsylvania. Because as her Dad, I want to know, encourage and see the bravest version of my children whenever I can.

The aspect that always amazes me about kids is that they don’t care what people think. During one of our trips to the beach, there was a group of muscular college-aged young men sheepishly dipping their toes into the ocean, cringing at the temperature, and June barreled right past them with her leggings pulled up to her knees and walked right in, unfazed by the temperature or the people around her.

Within minutes she was soaking wet, running back and forth with the tide as the waves chased her away from the sea.

Something in us changes as we grow up and we become overly aware of everyone else on the beach -- on our beach -- but not in a good way. We become filled with anxiety, worry, and self-doubt that if we don’t behave appropriately or look our best on "this beach" that we will be laughed at, tossed aside or ridiculed.

And so our time on the beach is spent mostly caring about what others think rather than enjoying what has been set before us. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t we look like June and enjoy what our heavenly Father has set before us: a beach -- a life -- full of wonder, opportunities, and freedom?

I know that I want to look like my four-year-old. I want to be dripping wet with cold ocean water just because that's the opportunity I've been given. I want to run free through life, with no worries about what those around me might think of me, but instead, be focused on enjoying what's in front of me at the moment.

So when we are more worried about the people looking at us than the opportunity before us, let's look to 4-year-old June and simply enjoy what's been given to us. Let's burst through opportunities like a kid being set down at the beach, with no other objective than to enjoy it for what it is. That would be freeing in the deepest sense, wouldn't it?! As the All Sons & Daughter's lyric so eloquently puts it, "It is for freedom that I am set free."

We are free, to be free.

And you know what? After our time on the beach is done, I don't think we will look back and wish that we played it safe. I think we will long for those opportunities again, now knowing fully what we could have made of them.

So here's the challenge set before us: start running today. Let's feel the salty wind blowing our hair around wildly, as we proclaim the goodness of what God has for us, and the opportunities, big or small, that our Father has provided. May we run strong with a heart full of love, hope, and purpose, unafraid of what others might think, knowing that when God sees we are enjoying what He’s given, He will pour out more opportunities to proclaim His goodness. Let's start running free today, like a little kid running on the beach, whether at home, at work, at the gym, in front of your husband, or wife, or kids, in-laws, co-workers, or strangers. Let's run with a freedom that those around us will have to ask why we are the way we are.

And when they do ask, let's be that brave 4-year-old version of ourselves and tell them about the Jesus who freed us, and then invite them to run beside us.

Video, AdviceT.J. Mousetis