Songs that make me swell with pride, as my chest booms with every celebratory explosion in the sky. Passionate speeches and heart wrenching memories pour out of every red-blooded American. Love and brotherhood with our fellow citizen, that was by random chance born on this side of the globe. Admiration and appreciation for the soil and air we breathe on this particular continent. Defended, guarded, even pressed out beyond our borders, we join hands and voices to let our freedom ring around the world.
But then, Monday morning. Back to the job where you struggle to work in the confines of the rules. Up with the kids who do not seem to notice that their needs are not the center of the universe. Caught in the traffic, waiting for nothing, except for the completely uncontrollable line of vehicles perpetually blocking your way forward. I do not feel free.
On the radio, I hear they have closed the beaches again. Ever churning ocean water, freely floating sand particles, untamed sea life, soft salty shore breeze. Then I remember the mother who lost the rights to visit her very own children, to see them, hold them, the very human life that was created within her own body. Then I talk to a beautiful wise soul who has been torn limb from limb by the effects of chemotherapy, disintegrating into nothing, slowly and painfully. And I do not know if anyone really is free.
And on a Monday morning, I must consider again this word: Freedom. Just a few days ago, I was on an emotional high concerning the freedom I possess in this great country, compared to any other place in the world. Oppression, slavery, and frustration should not be tolerated in a free country (see the recent post New State-Run Church). Our purpose in life here should be released to the ideals that are “self-evident” (see also the recent post The American Tragedy). So, I look critically around me and ask, what is free about any of this?
When I hear the word freedom, it brings to mind doing what I want, freely. Not necessarily in a bad context, I mean not all the time. I want to be free to choose. Free to do this and not that. Free to say this and not that. Free to go here, not there. Free to pursue the things which make me happy and the living of my best life. Let freedom ring. Equal opportunity for all in life, liberty, and happiness, without negative consequence. This is the freedom I desire.
But I look everywhere in America and find the flaws in my supposed freedom. I am not uninhibited to do whatever I want. I am not unrestrained to go anywhere I please. I am not encouraged to say anything that comes to mind. External restraints, internal limitations, imposed controls, self-inflected boundaries. Even if I know whatever it is will make me happy, I am not necessarily as free as I think I am.
Certainly, options to make choices, but nothing I do is completely free. Bound by measures of good and bad, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, the law of the land, of God, of nature, all constrain my freedom. Legislated “freedoms” are prescribed in detail, masking the ugly side of restrictions. Balanced transactional justification weighed by a righteous judge is the only way in which to keep “freedom” alive and fair in this country.
And on a Monday morning, here in America, I recognize I am truly not free. Our political language about freedom is so particular and specific, but ultimately the United States of America cannot support unbound, uninhibited freedom. No country or government can. No set of declarations or laws can. Not even the absence of declarations or laws, because there is always a higher law of consequences at work.
Whether under the disguise of freedom in America or visibly captive in a foreign political oppression, we are all slaves. Not one of us is free, no matter which king we serve. There is no system on this earth that will produce the freedom we seek and desire.
Freedom is something else altogether. Freedom whole-heartily despairs the hopeless situation we find ourselves in. Freedom sees the heavy chains of this existence that cannot be broken by the right law or person or situation or government or place or time. Freedom is a cosmic reality untouched by your bad choices, your good deeds, your careful morality, your death-deserving sin. Freedom is the parallel universe that feels no chains at all, limitless, released, unrestricted. Freedom is a simple word, no rules, no requirements, only a word that is trusted.
Freedom is forgiveness in Christ. American “freedom” is a shallow vapor of the irresponsible freedom God declares to you, because of His Son. Beyond our every border and counsel, past every accountability partner, more than any moral standard, there remains no ill-consequence for you in Christ. Right now, there is only freedom of life, liberty, and happiness. Until eternity.