Are you free?
My first answer is: “more than most of the world.” I can travel as I please and communicate easily and keep my contacts close. But on second thought, I don’t know if that’s entirely true. In America, we seem bound to our screens and our commercialisms and our need to be well thought of.
Do I feel like I am enslaved? You have to know there is a problem before you can solve it and maybe asking the question in reverse can force an answer. Personally, I do feel enslaved and as I look around, I see everyone else is also.
Even leaders who proclaim a message of freedom, they’re enslaved right along with the rest of us. Folks who preach Jesus still enter their cells at the end of the day. People who propose confidence secretly rely on internet message boards. Popular artists need followers in white-walled museums.
I am enslaved to lust (that’s one sin that will throw a hush over a crowded fellowship mall) and the idea of a stable relationship. I dwell on these ideas; ruminate and bargain with God that I might have a taste of the sweet dessert of marriage. I feel that I am not complete unless I have that kind of partnership and I cope with the void by filling my head with lust at times.
I am imprisoned by appearing successful. It is not even being successful it’s appearing successful. I want my community members (reaching all across the country via social media) to think I’m very busy; making money and contributing. This slavery is not as pernicious as some others in my life, but I wonder what freedom could do to alleviate my ‘keeping up appearances.’
I am held captive by depression and mental illness. There are times when I do not get to choose when I am deeply sad, instead that state of mind chooses me. Now, there are things within my control (what I eat, how much sun I get, how much quality time I spend) but there is also a great force working against me no matter how well I’m caring for myself.
All my peers, (and unfortunately my heroes as well) are enslaved. They turn minor inconveniences into unscalable mountains. They work relentlessly and lose their family. They compare and self medicate and rage and cheat and lie.
I have grown weary of those who propose quick solutions to the problem of these shackles; snake oil salesman who flash a remedy but act in hypocrisy. I see their quick temper with their children while they act pious on Sunday morning. I see their struggle with alcohol while they preach sobriety. I see their unconfidence masked as boisterous clamouring.
All this to say, I know that the people of this world are human; friend and stranger alike. I have no problem embracing their humanity, but it is when they masquerade as free and stable and confident that I take exception.
So in a world where I see slavery, what does it mean to try for freedom despite?
Do I need a:
- Retreat to recenter myself and learn new coping techniques
- Life coach to point me in an ambitious direction
- Therapist to uncover childhood trauma that I could then overcome
- New church small group filled with people in my same season of life
- Deeper connection with my friends built on accountability
- Social club to connect with like minded people and explore a hobby
The answer is probably yes, in part, to all of those things.
I have had deep struggles with God and before I talk about faith issues, I want to approach the topic with realness and rawness, because I do not want to sound cheesy.
An idea has been presented to me countless times as I have grown up in non-denominational churches: Don’t rely on anything in this world for freedom, rely on God.
I recently have been thinking a great deal about perfection and how Jesus is the only idea that has ever been presented to me in that way. To me, a perfect person seems like good inspiration in the quest for freedom.Even if I have to think of him as a metaphor at times.
What if I could take my messed up life – filled with depression and comparison and lust and shame, work on those things through therapy, ect. and take on God’s perfection and freedom for myself.
I don’t think freedom comes without work. We have to remember where our security and stability comes from when someone else degrades us or humiliates us. However, moments of pain are small matters compared to retaining personal freedom.
I also want to be prepared when it’s my own mind that’s doing the attacking; attempting to tear down and damage me.
Is my salvation secure? Can a person who struggles with lust lose their salvation? What does it mean that I’m not attending church regularly anymore?
These are all questions that swirl around my mind. The church at large has said a lot of things on similar issues, basically scaring congregations into believing it’s Jesus plus something else (like three devoted quiet times a day or consistent church attendance) that’s required for us to be saved.
But it’s just Jesus that paves the way for our salvation. Just his perfection that grants us freedom and what I’m trying to say in this piece is that we can partake in that perfection and in that freedom; not relying on our own work.
It’s not, “Is my faith good enough?” it’s “Jesus lived a perfect life and that’s what God sees when he looks at you.”
It’s not, “One too many fuck ups and you’re out of the club,” it’s “Jesus died for all past, present and future sin.”
It’s not, “I’m not a confident person so, I must not know God,” it’s “Rely on God solely for matters of worth because all other things are fleeting.”
What do you want to be free from?
And what has the power to set you free?