When I was an adolescent, and sometimes into my twenties, I was impatient for the freedom to be my own boss – to find the “real” me and freely pursue my own dreams. I thought that real freedom was to have no restraints or restrictions – to be able to do whatever I thought I wanted at a given moment. Now I wonder about my notion of “freedom”. Many years later, I am not so sure that total freedom is a worthwhile goal !
I have come to understand that when people say they need to be “free” to do what they really want, they may be naive about how the emotions of the human heart work. People have a lot of wants, and those wants often contradict each other. For example, on the one hand people say they want to eat anything they feel like eating, and freedom of access to eat as much as their stomach will hold. On the other hand, they want to have good health. So, what is freedom? They must decide which one of those wants is the liberating one, and which one will bring them trouble. And right away they have started to alter their “Freedom” model. They have started to realize that freedom can’t just be a lack of restrictions, but finding the right restrictions.
Another issue for those desiring “freedom,” involves the complexity of motivation. What is it that drives, or motivates people? There are hundreds of choices we must make every day, and usually they are between good options. Why do we choose the ones we do? Every person has some objective they hold up above all others. We believe that if we could just attain that “one thing” (perhaps it is money, or status) we would find freedom. I know now that there is a trap here – unless that “one thing” is God, the object of my pursuit ends up controlling me, and I actually will lose some of my freedom.
A third aspect of simply seeking freedom is what we could call “the fabric of reality.” Reality is like a fabric. There is a pattern, a given design to reality that must be honored or the fabric tears or unravels. A classic illustration is seen in fish. A fish has two features that make it perfect in water – gills that absorb oxygen from the water, but not from the air. Secondly, fins that move the fish through water, but are not for use on land. These are restrictions on the freedom of a fish. If the fish is in the wrong environment, it is not able to honor the way it fits into the fabric of things, and it dies. If it does honor its given design it is free to do what ever it was designed to do.
Sometimes we see human beings, in the exercise of their “freedom,” tearing the fabric of their lives by the use of drugs, alcohol or other fabric-tearing choices which their freedom makes available to them.
What are human beings designed to do? The clue may be to look at how human love works. John Stott puts it this way:
True freedom is just to be one’s true self, because my true self is made for loving, and loving is SELF-GIVING. So, in order to be myself, I have to deny myself and give of myself. In order to be free, I must give up my freedom. In order to live fully, I must die to my self-centeredness. In order to find myself, I have to lose my freedom.
This brings me to the conclusion that real freedom is not just doing whatever we most want to do. It is linked with whatever each of us was designed for by our Creator. Real freedom is in finding the right restrictions, specific to each of us personally. Jesus actually urged us to give up some of our most fundamental freedoms of choice. The reward would be to obtain an even more profound freedom in our daily lives.
Isn’t that why Jesus says:
– “If you hold to my teaching . . . you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31 – 32)
–“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
–“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30)
These thoughts are brought to you by CPC’s Adult Spiritual Development Team, hoping to encourage you to pursue some personal spiritual growth this Fall at CPC.