In our previous discussion on Christian spirituality, we took up the topic of obedience, and then proceeded to demolish any semblance of freedom we might be entitled to under the guise of “our freedom in Christ.” It was rather unfair of me, actually.
So before we launch into our discussion today, I would like to state plainly that I am all for freedom and like most have a part of me that fears its loss. That part of me imagines a life whereby I am denied every choice till I am left with nothing but the worst version of myself.
But there is a fear greater, and it is a life lived without purpose and destiny. We must be honest: Freedom has its limits. I am sure my friend Citizen Tom would agree that the purpose of freedom is not freedom itself, but what freedom is able to achieve. The country in which I live is based on the ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But even in that single phrase, we find liberty (that is, freedom) does not make a good solitary traveler: It must have companions. Freedom follows life, and it yields to pursuit.
And pursuit, by its very definition, means the curtailment of freedom. When I pursued my wife, I pursued no other (and I still pursue her). When we pursue something, we do so at the sacrifice of all else. In a sense, pursuing is the very act of sacrificing all other goals but one. And this is where true happiness is found.
Jesus put it this way:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
The secret to joy in this life is that it is found not in the preservation of all options but in the elimination of all options but the one that matters. Joy is found in the sacrifice, not in the preservation, of freedom.
So when I say it was rather unfair of me to demolish any semblance of freedom in the Christian life, I suppose I only half mean it. For it is not the loss of freedom before God, in whom alone we find the one option that matters, that we fear. It is only the loss of freedom that prevents us from making that decision. In other words, we fear others or circumstances denying us of the liberty to pursue the only life that matters, which is the life God has for us.
But can others or circumstances really keep us from such a life? In this life, the rulers and circumstances of this age may keep us from many things, but not the life we are destined to live in God. Neither death nor life nor angels nor demons, nor any other power or anything in all creation, can keep us from that life.
But the power we give to others and circumstances can. We can choose to love another more than God, or become entangled by thorns of the cares of life or riches that choke us, or be thwarted by the shallow ground we have chosen to inhabit, or collapse under the foundation of sand we have built for ourselves.
And so, ironically, it is our very freedom that denies us the only life that matters. If we fear anything, it should not be the loss of our precious freedom. Rather, it should be the freedom we have used to sell ourselves into bondage to a life that does not matter, and cannot ultimately fulfill us or God’s plans for us.
But a freedom willingly surrendered is very different from a freedom forcibly taken. My friend insanitybytes22 puts it beautifully:
Obedience and freedom, rather than being all about choices and being able to do as you please, suddenly became all about, what can I do to be pleasing? My will and God’s will merged, if only for a fraction of a moment, and the whole concept of being pleasing to Him wasn’t about earning anything or avoiding punishment, it was more like falling in love, like the sheer delight you get from just staring into someone’s eyes and watching them smile. I want to please you, it is what I live for, it is why I am here.
In our next post (as promised!) we shall look at what Scripture has to say about the process of us willingly surrendering our freedom. We shall find the motivation that insanitybytes22 describes is not only helpful: It is vital.
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photo by Annie Spratt