Sunday, November 13, 2016

Freedom

by Sarah Van Diest @SarahVanDiest

The concept of freedom is attractive. We love what we believe it represents. Who doesn’t want to be free? But freedom has a cost and many times we work hard to circumvent its cost and try to obtain it in other ways; artificial ways.

We tend to define freedom as getting to do whatever we please, and that is not wholly unassociated with the definition I’m trying to discuss, as there is liberty to act as we believe is good, but it falls short as a definition. Freedom in the sense I am speaking is the opposite of the experience of oppression and enslavement (even in the midst of those external circumstances); it is about freedom from the law that encumbers us (requires us to seek vengeance, for example) and with which we encumber those around us. It is freedom in the sense of life without regrets because we have loved without reservation, restriction, or condition.

Victor Frankl knew freedom in his years of captivity in a concentration camp during WW2 where his loved ones perished, finding he had more freedom than those who imprisoned him. Jesus knew freedom on the cross as He suffered and died at the hands of those He came to save, never taking on the part of victim and having no need for those who murdered Him to pay. Only by God’s grace, I knew freedom during the final two years of marriage to an abusive man who had promised to love me, relinquishing him from any requirement of retribution. How can freedom be found in the midst of imprisonment, torture and abuse? That is not the definition of freedom most of us hold, but it is freedom in the most profound sense.

It makes more sense to most of us to know and expect freedom after these kinds of circumstances are over, and there is freedom to be had on the other side, to be sure. But escaping the circumstance is not necessarily the answer we think it is. Freedom is much less about our circumstances and more about the position and condition of our hearts and minds.

It all has to do with love, compassion,
empathy and forgiveness.
This is a complex issue, yes, but the basic gist is extremely simple. It all has to do with love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness. It has to do with surrendering our claim to victimhood and releasing our oppressor from our need for vindication and punishment. It has to do with humility and personal responsibility. It has to do with a right view of who God is and who we are to Him.

In order to find freedom, there are lies we must stop believing and truths we must accept. Dr. Tim Jennings says it this way in his book The God Shaped Brain, “Love cannot flow where lies are retained.” Lies we hold onto about those who have hurt us or are actively hurting us, lies about God, and lies about ourselves are all blockades to freedom, health, wholeness and healing.

Lies we believe about those who have injured us include our beliefs about the motives for their actions. We tend to villainize their motivations and declare their intent to harm us. It fits our agendas to have them become quite evil; almost non-human caricatures from a book or movie. We also tend to exaggerate their behaviors and even go so far as to manipulate circumstances so they will appear more dastardly than they really are. If they offer us something conciliatory we claim their gesture is empty and comes from a place of guilt or appeasement; giving them no credit for the offer they’ve made. We do this out of our hurt, pain and self-protection.

We accept lies about God too. We suppose Him to have abandoned us because our prayers for freedom have gone unanswered. We’ve pleaded for help and yet our circumstances don’t change. Or we are blind to the help He does send like the fictional story of the man lost at sea praying for a boat to rescue him, but all that comes are helicopters, planes, rafts and dolphins who carry him to shore… that boat never came, so God must not be listening. Or we’ve believed the lie that God is punishing us for something we did years ago. We believe He doesn’t really care. We believe He is angry at us. We do this out of a poor picture of who God is and who we are to Him.

The lies we cling to about ourselves may be the
most difficult to see.
The lies we cling to about ourselves may be the most difficult to see. They sit so closely and we know them so intimately we hardly recognize them for the lies they are. Some of these lies are old friends of ours; we’ve had them with us as long as we can remember. It is truth that feels foreign and wrong. We resist it and reject it. These lies are deep and we believe they are our identity. They paradoxically hold us together as they systematically tear us apart. These lies are about our very make-up and constitution, not just about our position in this particular circumstance, though that is part of the deception. In our circumstance, we may believe in a more lofty and innocent portrayal of ourselves than is true, or just the reverse. These lies are foundational to how we see everything including the one hurting us and God Himself.

As I’ve thought through my own experiences I’ve tried to unearth the process I went through to come to the freedom I found. Mind you, it was and is something that comes and goes because I am an inconsistent being. I do not always hold onto truth. Lies still permeate me at foundational levels and it seems as though I start all over again, though the road is familiar now and I feel I know the way home. I ask myself, was there a process I went through the first time to find freedom or was it just a “road to Damascus” experience? And either way, is it something that is repeatable, transferrable and something that can be taught to others?

The answer I have come to is “both.” By this I mean to convey the idea that there is both work we can do to walk toward freedom but also that God’s grace, power and love are pivotal aspects to our finding freedom. After all, freedom is found in Christ. The law of love is liberty.

This is just the beginning, just scratching the surface, and I’m not saying anything new. We intrinsically, intuitively know this truth…if we are honest and if we will humble ourselves, we already know that freedom is close. Freedom is within our reach… but lies are imprisoning. We’ve had the key to freedom all along, but sometimes we refuse to use it. Fear traps us and though we think our walls protect us, they have formed a prison cell.

That prison cell can become our identity and we may try to use our position of victim to get what we think we want, wielding it as a sword. Our circumstances become excuses for behavior we know is not good or right, but we want what we want so we justify our actions and attitudes with the pain inflicted on us and the injustices we’ve been served. I know, I’ve done it. But what we find is that our victimhood cannot give us freedom or life or fulfillment or joy. It only brings death.

The cost for our freedom has already been paid. Christ died to put an end to the law that reigned over us. The cost to us is to lay down the law of retribution, to lay down the lies, and to walk humbly with our God.
Freedom is there for you today. Use your key.  

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

Educated as a teacher, Sarah taught school for nearly 20 years. As a young woman, she lived in China amid the rice paddies and water buffalo near Changsha, and then later taught English in Costa Rica for four years and raised her two sons. 

Sarah is married for the second time, the mother of 2 boys and the step-mother to 3 more. She and her husband, David, work together in their agency The Van Diest Literary Agency. Her full name is Sarah Ruth Gerke Van Diest. She’s 5’5” and cuts her hair when stress overtakes her. 

She is a freelance editor (including a New York Times and USA Today bestseller), blogger (The Write Conversation) and writer for hire. Her first book releases with NavPress in 2018. 

http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/   

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