“the spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. “

– isaiah 61:1-3

* * * * *

this is one of my all-time favorite passages in the entire Bible.  when i first moved to colorado 14 years ago  i was in a crazy hard season of intentional healing from a lot of shame & these words entered into my heart more deeply and somehow helped set me free from shame.  it really was supernatural, and  i love that Jesus lead with them when his public ministry started in luke 4, essentially saying “here we go, i’m here to set you free, like really free.”

over 2,000 years later rules and religion still have people in bondage.

and freedom–real and deep freedom, the kind i think God meant for us–seems to remain very elusive for many of us no matter how long we’ve gone to church.

in fact, i’ve come to believe that the longer we’ve gone, the harder it is to be free.

i also believe that real freedom is scary.

i have fleeting moments where i feel it in my bones, in every fiber of my being.  where grace and peace and a security in who i am intersect in some wild way in my spirit and i truly feel free.

free of needing to please anyone.

free of systems that tell me what i can and cannot do, believe and cannot believe.

free of insecurity about my worth and value.

then what sometimes happens to me is i read too much on the internet.

or i look up and away from what’s right in front of me and begin to compare myself to others.

or i make a dumb mistake.

i see people who seem more spiritual than me.

more certain than me.

more gracious and humble than me.

more talented than me.

more all kinds of things than me.

and just like that, my freedom slips away and i’m back in egypt.

a slave.

i don’t want to be a slave.

and i don’t want my friends to be slaves, either.

so i keep fighting for my freedom.

and for the freedom of others, too.

toni morrison says, “the function of our freedom is to free someone else.”

years ago when my kids were little and i started making some significant shifts in my spiritual journey and becoming more honest, i remember saying to my friends “my kids are what keep my butt in the chair every week, trying to grow and change.  i don’t want them to be stuck or feel the way i feel about myself.  i want them to be free.”  and now, as they are getting older, this feels clear–they are indeed free-er than me.

and even though my freedom can feel elusive sometimes, something has indeed “tipped” over the past chunk of years and i feel more free, more of the time, than i’ve ever felt before.

free to be me, just me.

free to receive God’s love without having to work for it.

free to lead freely as a woman in my little wild faith community, the refuge, and i know that’s a gift in “the church.”

free to share my sin & shame & pain & struggles without fear of judgment or rejection.

free to be loved by all kinds of beautiful people in all kinds of beautiful ways.

free to offer love to others without trying to change them.

and free to call others to freedom, too, to use my freedom to help free someone else.

to make room for others to lead and find their voice, their creativity, their passion.

to be safe enough to hear another person’s sin & shame & pain & struggle and do what i can to offer unconditional love and acceptance.

to play whatever small part i can in passing on love to those who feel unlovable, to making the invisible visible.

to encourage others to be free to be themselves, too.

none of this is possible on our own.   oh, how we need God’s spirit to move in our hearts & lives to reveal to us what deep, real freedom really is!  to make sure we don’t mistake freedom for a bigger cage.

then we must accept it.  lean into it.  practice it.  trust it.  re-new it, again and again and again.

and use it–however we can, whenever we can–to free someone else, too.

* * * * *

ps: down we go’s been doing well & i always love hearing the stories on what it stirs up so keep ’em coming! here are a few things swirling around out there about it:







Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Kathy,

    I used to think that I had this verse figured out. When I was a prison guard, and pretty good churchy guy, I felt that setting people free was getting their lives all straightened out just like mine. I never once considered that there could truly be beauty in the ugliness I saw in the lives of those around me. God in His mercy and wisdom brought me to the very depths and from inside of a prison cell, I began to see that God’s strength was made perfect in my weakness not in my having it all together. The freedom god promises is the freedom to be loved and accepted as dear children in spite of all of our flaws and failures. Thank you for you openness and wilingness to see the beauty that can only come from the ashes of our messy lives.

    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

    • fedex, oh such beautiful thoughts, thanks for sharing. i, too, had this idea that it was one or the other. learning to live in the paradox of both existing at the same time–beauty & ugliness, strength & weakness, brokenness & wholeness, joy & sorrow–and God always at work freeing and healing and restoring has indeed set me more and more free. i’m so glad we met & i’m working on a little field trip down to hang out with you guys in the next few months. peace and hope to you in the beauty & the mess…

  • Yesterday, a friend and I prayed and worshipped to the words of this Scripture. It’s one of my favorites too. And it’s a very liberating to know God can use us AS WE ARE, not as we wish we were.

    • liberating is a great word…thanks for reading & sharing, laurie!

  • Yes, please. In the midst of this crazy season, I *can* say that I have felt a bit more free throughout. I <3 that it is for your kids that you put your but in the chair. I really feel like that is a top motivator for me to conciously choose to stay in-my future kiddos. I don't want my kids to feel captive & haunted, so the less I feel those things, the more I will *hopefully* share.. It is amazing how compelling the idea of that really is in fuel for the journey… 🙂

    • yes, oh yes, one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is our own healing & transformation & i’m glad that it’s not a once-and-for-all but ongoing. even though my kids are getting older, i know that the more i continue to change & grow & heal the more they will continue to benefit. the journey never ends but i do think there are seasons where it’s much harder, much more intense. the earlier, the better. i always say “pay now or pay later with interest.” love you my brave and beautiful friend.


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