I enjoyed a refreshingly abundant day this Memorial Day:
- I engaged in some great conversation and receive good advice from my dad on a long walk with my dog.
- While tanning at the pool, I picked up my favorite Russian classic author after a long and disappointing hiatus in the middle of the book. (Note: my writing style tends to change depending on what I write, so if you notice long and accurately descriptive sentences, you can thank Dostoevsky.)
- All of my belongings from my former and beloved home are now packed and ready to migrate to my next home somewhere in Kansas.
- It was a sad day for cows everywhere because of the immense and delicious amount of barbecuing happening across the country.
- Now, by the insistence of a dear friend, I have been planning out the next few days of the week so I can make them count in the eternal scheme of things.
I don’t remember what memorial means.
To be honest, I haven’t thought much today, or other days, about the people who lost their lives defending out country over the years. But even apart from my own consciousness, all of these men and women have affected my life and your life in more ways than we could count. It has been a fitting day to celebrate the freedoms I have as an American, and even if this day didn’t exist, every other day is a day I get to enjoy those freedoms.
I could never thank them enough, and in that way, I suppose I’m somewhat taking advantage of my freedoms. But I suppose if I were a soldier looking to future generations, I would not want them to be saddened by their inability to be thankful to a fair extent. I wouldn’t expect a thank-you, because what I did was willing, and even knowing that future generations were enjoying freedom because of my and other soldiers would bring me joy.
Paranoia isn’t free.
This week, I have also been wrestling with the idea of where I derive my significance. I realized that most of what I have been doing lately has simply been to make people happy, or to make God happy, because I have this oppressive, stifling feeling that everyone is watching me.
This has been no freedom at all, and nothing more than empty religion. My mom reminded me of the reality of grace. I often forget what grace means, and lately I have defined it erroneously as “the treatment you get when you’re not good enough.” It was a term for me that was full of shame and embarrassment for the inevitability of being imperfect. Grace sometimes makes me feel like a charity case — and that God’s charity would be unnecessary if I could just be good enough.
But just like the attitude of our soldiers, Jesus did not want us to be shamed by our limitations, or in slavery to some in-repayable debt.
If rhythm is a dancer, freedom is a paradox.
What does it mean to live in freedom? It’s this paradox somewhere between being unneeded and yet wanted. It’s somewhere between being assured of the future, while also being an active part of making it. It’s the dance of duty and desire. Perhaps part of it is being conscious of what you want now, but knowing what you want more later. But along with that is resting in the knowledge that God wants the highest good at all times — and that God always gets what He wants.
Freedom includes both fields and fences, assurances and unknowns. Perhaps it’s also a mixture of confidence and confusion — that is, at least, the freedom to be confused, whether an answer is clear or not.
Rules don’t free people; people free people.
Most of all, freedom is a relationship that thrives on commitment and faithfulness. That is the freedom Jesus offers.
Jesus doesn’t want me to do “good things” because I’m afraid of what He thinks of me, or even to try to uphold a good reputation. He wants me to get my eyes off myself and look to His perfection, which I guess is enough for the both of us. Because Jesus paid the penalty for my sins before God, wiping away any punishment and wrath God had toward me, I no longer have to try to justify myself. Even if I sin, God sees me no differently and loves me no less. That’s freedom.
And even moreso is the idea that I’m free to love. If I only love because I’m worried about what will become of me if I don’t love, that is no love at all, but rather the most deceptive form of selfishness, because I look to others like I am giving up everything I want to bring them good, but in my heart I would know that I am really still just trying to get what I want — that is, self-justification.
But because Christ died for me, I know that no matter what I do, I have been justified by Him, my slate has been wiped clean, and I’m destined for heaven. Which means that I am free to sin, but I am more free to love than I ever could have been before.
I want to love people because I want to love them, not because I have to. Even if adopting this resolution I have realized that my capacity for and creativity in love only increases when I love freely rather than obligatorily.
If you have Jesus as the Lord of your life, you are inevitably destined for heaven. But your love is not inevitable. It’s a choice. Which means that to love and be loved by God and others, under the truth of the gospel, is to enjoy freedom to the fullest.
James 1:25, 2:12-13
My life isn’t just a series of necessary hurdles to jump through. It can’t be — not if I am to seek the abundant life God wants for me.
Freedom is not necessary. That’s why it’s called freedom.