She was probably about two or three years old, I’ll call her Zoey. The band playing on the warm summer evening was calling Zoey’s feet to dance freely on the street. She turned every direction with her eyes closed at times and looking toward the sky at other times, smiling all the while. Dad stood close by with a steady hand to ensure Zoey didn’t bump into passersby but Zoey was unaware of Dad’s intervention. She simply danced to the beat in her heart.
Zoey wasn’t old enough to know the music. She had no knowledge of the genre, no preference to the style or impression as to whether or not the band was even any good. She was unaware of the skills with which she danced or whether anyone around her approved. She was living, as it were, in the Garden of Eden… a place of innocence. It’s a place that calls us to return to now and then to simply play and enjoy the face of God, the joy of our heart, the songs that make us dance or the dreams that bring us life. It’s those places that are personal to us that bring the most peace at times when the world is heavy and pressing in on us that God beckons us to step back and dance with Him in the Garden.
There will be a time, and perhaps it’s already begun, when Zoey will gradually lose these Garden experiences. When Zoey experiences her first wounding in life she will find a way to protect herself from being wounded again. Maybe it will be a neighbor friend who plays unfair. Zoey will not be so trusting and open to sharing when playing in the front yard the next time. What was once a casual running out the front door to greet a neighbor friend will now be met with caution and suspicion. The scene is forever changed. What once was will never again exist.
In the same way, Zoey’s dancing will change. Her innocent belief that music is to be enjoyed for the sound and beat it creates in the heart will soon be replaced by what is acceptable by her peers. She will one day learn that the band doesn’t sound as well as some expect they should so crowds begin to dissipate. Most sad of all is that she will adopt a belief that says she doesn’t dance well and her emotional shoestrings will be forever tied. She will lose her ability to dance freely like I once watched her do on the street for fear that she might be laughed at. The fear of being laughed at, especially at a young age, is considered one of the most frightening things a person can experience.
You and I know that this is not a deadly occurrence yet there is a place in our brains that believes that it is and will avoid doing anything that might bring it on, ‘it’ being ridiculed/rejected/death, at all costs. As Zoey, and each of us, move further away from the Garden experiences, we lose the truth of our emotional freedoms and adopt these untruths and lies that tie us up in many ways. They bind our dreams, they lock our expectations, they give us cynical spirits and judgmental vision.
Once wounded we begin to approach all others using our protective tools that worked well on others. For example, if someone comes at you to harm you causing you to have to take a swing to protect yourself – no one would hold that against you. However, if you now walked around swinging at everyone you came across we might have a problem. Yet, that’s emotionally what we begin to do from an early age with these wounds that occured at such a young age that we couldn’t even logically process them. So it’s only natural that the process of unraveling the protective tools is hard work.
But if we can start to see life through the eyes of the Zoey’s of the world we can find freedom to enjoy what was meant to be ours from the beginning. When we begin seeing people as trustworthy, or the music she was dancing to as good – the world is generally good…we can honestly begin to heal and approach others with new tools.
One way to begin this process is to take at least one hour a week for yourself. Find an activity that is something that you enjoy doing (or maybe not do anything). Make it personal. If you find this difficult because you feel it’s selfish, keep in mind that you cannot give to others what you don’t have. You need to care for yourself before you can give to others. Airlines will give you the speech that you need to provide oxygen to yourself before giving it to children with you – or you’re of no use to help them. By taking care of yourself you begin to build into yourself a reservoir of joy or good to draw from when trouble comes your way. We’re all sure to have trouble, but if we can have joy to draw from we’re more able to handle the trouble as it heads toward us. If our joy tank, as it were, is always on empty we will never be able to handle trials and will most often approach people with our old tools that aren’t helpful. Build up your joy tank each day, each week, each month – this is YOUR responsibility!
It might be hiking in the mountains for one person, fishing for another, working on a car, taking a walk along the beach or a river for another, a bubble bath, sitting under a tree or working in the garden. We all have something that makes our hearts beat a little lighter, gives our minds rest and tells our souls that all is well because it’s in these places that we allow the world to slow down enough to hear God whisper to us that He is there in the middle of it all. Like Joey, we all need time to forget that the things that have created walls, judgment, criticalness, hurriedness, or beliefs that tear down our dreams. We need to have permission to care for ourselves, in fact see it as a responsibility to care for ourselves enough to rest and relax enough to laugh and dance like Joey did and know that our Father in Heaven will stand closely by to make sure that we won’t bump into anyone but can freely enjoy ourselves before getting back to the business of growing up. Take a moment and untie your emotional shoestrings and dance!