I once knew a girl who was free. She wasn’t weighed down by worry or shame, and she got lost in adventures led by her fearless feet. Occasional scrapes and snags were part of the passion. Mending her wings seemed to require just a little rest, and then she’d fly off again. I long for the simplicity of that time.
As life continued, things weren’t so simple anymore. Worry and shame crept in as others tried to clip her wings.
Seemingly too confident? Clip.
Just a girl, not a boy? Clip.
Too passionate or loud? Clip.
Not staying in line like she should? Clip.
With her wingspan shrinking, grief and loss tore and tattered the feathers she had left. The days of simple rest and swift mending were gone. Somehow she forgot what it was like to hold on to her spunk. Without realizing it, she even joined others in clipping her wings.
I look back now and wonder, how did this happen? Where was the shift when things changed? When did “shoulds” and shame take over? When did this girl lose her sense of freedom? When did I lose my freedom? Was it 10 years ago? 5 years ago? Or did it actually start 20 or 30 years ago?
The reality is there were many things, one right after another—stories and plots I would have never chosen for my life—that inevitably shaped me, whether I liked it or not. I became stuck in a cycle of stagnancy, caged without realizing it. I was numb to the cycle, and in a way, I see how it kept me safe. Mending wings felt not only risky, but exhausting. Why bother? To let myself hope for my full wingspan put me in a position to feel loss again.
What if someone clips my wings again? What if something else happens that tears them apart? Is it worth letting my heart grow hopeful, just to risk getting put in a cage again?
These thoughts confirmed the view that clipping was the safer option. If I kept my wings clipped, then maybe the messiness of life wouldn’t be so painful.
So, here I sit, with broken wings, missing the days of freedom.
Part of me wants to mend every last tear. Another part of me says, “clip them.”
In the last few months, another perspective has been chiming into this conversation. Some part of my soul has seemingly come out of nowhere, like a phoenix rising from ashes of pain and grief, not willing to stay there any longer. This part of my spirit has stirred me to dare—dare to hope and dare to try. My soul has been waking up with each new flutter my wings dare to flap. I can feel my heart beating again.
I’m beginning to see things differently. Rather than viewing mending as a one-time process that I can get through or be done with, I’m looking at mending as an ongoing byproduct of using my wings.
My mother is a seamstress and can mend just about anything. She understands the intricacies of how to mend something so that it is not only beautiful, but also usable. She knows how to reinforce the places that need to be strong, and she’s remarkably skilled at figuring out how to do this in a way that is invisible to the naked eye. But if you know where to look behind a seam, you can often see remnants of a story.
This is the kind of picture I want to envision as I open myself up to my fullest wingspan, no longer clipping my wings. I accept that freedom will include the maintenance of mending. These wings hold a story, embedded in the multilayered, repaired rips and tears that will be mended time and time again. Their story is made more beautiful and strengthened by each new stitch. Their story is one that will include wearing, tearing, and mending, but they will not be clipped any longer.
Anna Christine is a trauma-informed therapist, passionate about cultivating healing spaces, exploring the intersections of pain, stuckness, and wrestling through faith journeys that are not linear paths. Her work draws from interpersonal neurobiology, polyvagal theory, and parts work, alongside thoughtful theological reflection and contemplative practices from her second master’s degree in Biblical Studies and her time spent in a spiritual formation fellowship. Her writing, along with free integrative resources, can be found on groundingmist.com.