Walking freely is not about walking without struggle; it is about walking without our struggles controlling us. As we are transformed into the image of Christ and continue to be obedient, I think that certain things become — dare I say — easier. Our gnawing fears and addictions and our wayward tendencies aren’t so overpowering. I think we develop a greater capacity to trust God each time we step out in faith and overcome our urges to act otherwise. We may walk with a limp, but we walk nonetheless.

Does this not reflect the story of the thorn in Paul’s side that God refused to take away? Or of Mephibosheth, who was lame but sat at the king’s table? Or of Moses, who stuttered but did not allow his impediment to keep him from obeying God and confronting Pharaoh? These people were not free of weighty problems, but they did not succumb to them in the end. That is the victory I am seeking in my own life.

Eagles’ Wings

I had just arrived at a remote camp in New Jersey where I was going to perform that night. I discovered that my cell phone had no signal, so I realized I was probably farther away from civilization than I wanted to admit. My first tip-off was when — on the way from the airport — we passed a packed-out rodeo in a place called “Cowtown.” I was hoping this alarming sight was not a precursor of things to come.

After arriving, I found my thoughts drifting back to family vacations when I was a kid. Set on a lake, the camp reminded me of all I loved about our summer getaways together. I suddenly felt no loyalties to my guitar or luggage and abandoned them to a stranger so I could go for an exploratory walk. First stop: a tantalizing row of kayaks. More like an eager kid, and less like the hired entertainment for the evening, I asked the promoter if I could take one out for a spin before sound check. He handed me a paddle.

I had never kayaked before, so the oar became a potentially dangerous tool in my hands. I remained undeterred, however, and coasted out onto the open water, allowing the fresh breeze to rejuvenate me after breathing the regurgitated air on the plane. I propped my legs up on the outside of my new vessel and smugly thought (at least on calm waters), I am a natural.

I cut through the water like a nautical veteran. I also sailed past several buoys that signified a no-trespassing zone. For some reason I missed that whole subliminal message, and without a care in the world, I curved around the bend, reassuring myself that being on the road is not so bad after all — even when you’re playing venues where there is no cellular service and the next city over is Cowtown.

Blissfully ignorant and floating into forbidden waters, I was suddenly mesmerized by something I hadn’t seen in years: a bald eagle. Gliding through the air, the eagle made my sleek kayak maneuverings seem stunted. Motionless, I watched her fly to a nearby tree and perch there for several seconds. Either finding what she was looking for or getting bored, the eagle then flew off into the invisible distance. This sight was the cherry on top of an already spectacular view.

After soaking in the experience, I decided to race back to shore before it was too late to rehearse. I had barely slipped out of the kayak when a woman came running up to me, asking if I had seen the eagle. (With one question, she single-handedly deflated my excitement; I thought I had been the first to see it.) Turns out, the string of buoys on the lake was specifically intended to deter people from disturbing the eagle’s nest. Apparently the eagle I saw was, with her mate, one of only thirty-five pairs of eagles in New Jersey, all of them on the endangered list.

As I walked back to my “dressing room” (okay, it was a lodge), I couldn’t help but view my experience against the backdrop of all I’ve been writing about. The eagle — the very symbol of freedom — needed to have her freedom protected. Protected from overzealous kayakers who pay no heed to buoys. An entire infrastructure had been put into place to safeguard the eagle, keep her and her mate reproducing, and enable her to fly without limits.