Last month I wrote a little bit about how important freedom is to us as a nation and as individuals. It’s critical, fragile and easily lost, as history shows us over and over again. I know a lot of people who choose to live here because of the freedom this area provides and that’s something many of us truly cherish.
This month however I want to talk about the other side of that coin. Because I believe that ultimately real freedom isn’t something that can be taken away from anyone because authentic freedom resides in our hearts not our laws or our founding documents like the constitution.
Real freedom is an inner reality and conviction. It’s a state of mind and heart more than a legal reality. What I’m trying to say here has been said many times before. Perhaps most famously by Richard Lovelace in his poem, To Althea, from Prison.
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.”
It’s important to note that Lovelace wrote this poem in 1642 while spending seven weeks in prison. So at least he had some idea about what he was talking about. Things like this are easy to talk about after you’ve gone through them of course. But as many famous persons have shown us, your heart can be free even if your body is imprisoned.
Think of people from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. to Solzhenitsyn and beyond. They were physically confined but spiritually triumphant.
Most of us probably aren’t too worried about going to prison anytime soon. But in our country – the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” – we see people who are enslaved by all sorts of things. Addiction in all its horrible forms holds the addict captive far more securely than any prison built by humans. It also torments its victims longer and better than most torments that spring from the mind of mankind.
This is the type of freedom that many of us really need. To be able to rise above our self and our circumstances and to realize that while I can lose my job, my money, my house or even my family and friends, no one can take my freedom from me.
I only lose my freedom when I give it away.
That’s what makes addictions so powerfully destructive and evil. Most of us voluntarily give ourselves to what enslaves us. And far too many of those enslaved never realize that unless they choose to be free again they never will be. (I know there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s where it starts.)
Like freely choosing to use the substance that eventually addicts me, I also often choose an attitude or belief that will do the same as well. A few years ago when I lost just about everything I finally realized that there were two things no one could take away from me: one was my God and the other my freedom to choose.
I decided to choose freedom. That meant I chose to forgive, no matter how strongly I didn’t want to and regardless of the pain. And sure enough: by laying down myself, my pain and my “rights” I found my freedom.
I had given it away for a while but, thank God, I found it again. I decided not give up my freedom to anger or demands for “justice.” Instead I chose freedom and by embracing that I found that I was, quite unknowingly and accidently to be sure, embracing my future.
Freedom always moves you forward. Giving up your freedom only takes you back into the morass of your past. If you want to move forward then you have drop whatever it is that controls you and boldly embrace your freedom.
So what’s holding you back right now? Let it go and choose to be free. That’s only the first step in your journey, but it is the step that everything else depends upon.
So be free.
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit the website HERE.