When things are held captive for too long — locked up, without nourishment, without air — they wither and eventually die. I know this on a deeply personal level. I’ve watched idly as my own words ran dry, as my own voice fell flat.

Words, captive. It seems strange, right? I’d have to agree. It is strange.

But it’s all I’ve ever known.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had words. A mess of them, sometimes dancing gracefully and other times blazing violently, but always moving, always words. I’ve never known exactly what to do with them, how to string them, how to speak them, how to value them. So for most of my life, I didn’t.

Fear, I guess.

In college, I had a rare professor who spoke few words, a small selection of spattered, strung-out mumbles. He had lost some hair, and probably some memory along the way. My classmates didn’t take him seriously. For some reason, he took an interest in me, in my words. Looking back, I see myself in him, and I wonder if he saw the same in me.

He gave our class the link to his website, if any of us were interested in seeing his past work, he said. I doubt anyone else spent much time there, but I read it from start to finish. He had words — real, raw ones that caught in my throat. And that semester, he taught me what it was to free words, no matter their weight.

He called it cathartic. I always nodded when he said that, as if I knew what he meant. But for me, then, there was no sense of relief. There was only agony.

That semester, words I’d carefully buried crept to the surface of my soul. Dark, wretched words bled out my fingertips, staining essays I’d soon bury, this time in the depths of my computer’s hard drive. They tore out of me with no regard for what was left behind — the cavernous holes they carved, the ringing in your ears when what was silent is all-at-once too loud.

I’d changed, and I hated myself for it. I longed for the person who held the words, controlled them so meticulously. But she was gone, and when I couldn’t find her, when I couldn’t reconcile those foreign words with the world around me, I thought it best to suffocate them. So, I did.

Pride, I guess.

Those years of self-suffocation left me fragile and broken. I was physically and psychologically isolated, ridden with anxiety but unable to process emotion. On the nights I lay sleepless, books were my light. Words were my lifeline. I piled them by my bed, and I was no longer alone in the darkest hours of the night. And the more I read others’ words, the harder it became to suffocate my own.

So, slowly, I began to speak them. Silently, at first, to the One who held my fragile heart, then softly to the human who knew it best. Both patient listeners and relentless encouragers, they never stopped listening — but they also never stopped urging me to write. Eventually, I listened.

It’s still incredibly difficult for me to write, but I’ve found that it’s necessary. It’s a sacred, healing space for me, a place where my creator restores my soul. A place where the sometimes-painful mystery of this world meets the unmatched grace of the Father, where what is tangled deep inside me finds a better home once freed by my fingers.

Cathartic, I guess.

Nowadays, what I struggle with most is whether or not it’s necessary for me to share the words. Writing them and publishing them are two entirely different undertakings, and the latter terrifies me to my very core. But it’s also unwilling to release its grip on my heart.

And when I dig into the reasons I don’t want to publish, I find the worn-out faces of fear and pride. Familiar faces I no longer welcome, familiar emotions of a heart held captive.

This heart’s been freed, and, now, so too are these words.