In Miguel de Cervantes’ classic compilation of the many adventures of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, the first noble and dangerous battle begins when the newly self-knighted Don Quixote spots a gang of evil giants. Without a moment’s hesitation, the fearless Quixote (and his hapless sidekick Sancho Panza) plunges into battle.
And as the giants rhythmically beat Don Quixote within an inch of his life, Sancho must pull the knight from the midst of the fray. They must reassess the situation. They have lost their bearings.
When was the last time a friend pulled you out of the fray and helped you rethink your position? Questions about why we do what we do, why we fight the battles we fight, why we work in our chosen professions can seem threatening. After all, it could turn out that we have lost our bearings. It could turn out that we are spending our energy and spilling our blood for a cause we have long lost sight of in the first place.
Are you working out of the center of your passions, or are you just hoping something better might suddenly come along some day? Is it possible that you have lost sight of your former passion for the homeless? Have you always dreamt of writing a book? Have you had the ambition to start your own business, but are too worried about the risk involved in the venture? Have you secretly held out hope that one day you could be an artist?
Following our passions–living out of the center of our selves–will involve reassessment of the battles we fight. Living fully into the men and women we were made to be in the first place, and remade to be in the life and death of Jesus demands that we reacquaint ourselves with our passions, with our desires, with our freedom.
Back in the story of Don Quixote, it turned out that the great knight was mistaken. What he was sure were giants turned out to be nothing more than windmills, turning with the rhythm of the breeze. He had committed the classic error of charging into battle without knowing his enemy. He began the battle without understanding what was at stake. His courage was not accompanied by wisdom.
About six months ago, I came home from work exhausted, burned out, and beaten down. A month or so before, I had my first book published, but I had very little idea of what to do next. I was working in a job that required close to three hours of busses a day and gave me little in the way of satisfaction, beyond a comfortable paycheck. The daily battles made about as much sense to be charging into as Don Quixote’s.
Seeing my exhaustion, my wife pulled me from the fray and started asking me some playful questions. What if you left that job? What if you touched back into your passions? What if you wrote more? These turned out to be dangerous questions. They required upheaval. They required sacrifice. They required me to reassess why I do what I do. But I wouldn’t trade the safety, the familiarity, and the routine I had for the expansiveness, the terror, and the possibilities that are in front of me as I write these words today. My wife saved me from wearing myself out in a losing battle. She saved me from death via windmill.
Let me be your Sancho Panza today. Let me pull you out of the fray and give you a minute to reassess why you do what you do. Let me save you from death via windmill. Is freedom calling you to something more? Is freedom calling you to engage more fully in the people you are surrounded by?
Imagine the change that can come when we hear freedom’s voice.