More Freedom than America has to offer

We had a lovely, relaxing 4th of July yesterday.

It was about enjoying time together, simplifying our schedule and ending our staycation well. I was on social media and perusing how differently people posted about the holiday – so very American; we can hardly agree on anything. And yet, that is the beauty of it – we don’t have to.

We GET to disagree, even about our country’s history, its independence and what freedom really means.

I always feel a tug and want to jump in and share and respond but realize that kind of participation on those platforms open me up to being caught in a vortex of arguing. Which is also not freeing or even enjoyable. I would say that communicating on social media and posting things that are left to have people “think” or “get woke” about certain issues doesn’t lend itself to being super effective because it is often done with little vulnerability and even less transparency, making relationship and connection almost impossible.

I have a lot of feelings about our country’s independence, voting, the difference between Memorial Day vs. Veteran’s Day and people often not caring enough to distinguish the two. I care about the inequality in pay between men and women for doing the same work, the appalling acceptance of sexual, mental and emotional abuse in our workplaces, churches, schools and homes. I have strong opinions about people standing or talking or kneeling during the National Anthem; the flag means something unusually personal to me. And if those weren’t enough, I have even more to say about introversion, shame and the lack of talking about and dealing with the heart of people and how we allow the media to become and shape our version of the truth.

And I imagine everyone with a computer, tablet and/or smartphone does too.

The way we respond to all of these things and more says more about our own perspective of our independence and freedom than what’s happening in the world around us. I don’t mean to say that it’s “all about me” because I know it isn’t, but how I engage in the above circumstances is directly related to whether I believe in and am walking out the freedom that has been gifted to me in Jesus Christ.

We often say, “freedom isn’t free.”

It costs something and in the case of Christ, it costs more than we ourselves could ever pay.

….and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood… • Revelation 1:5

If you profess yourself a Christian and follower of Jesus, making the effort to grow under His discipleship – it means you spend some time in the Bible learning what His Word says.

As one who has been able to read it several times in its entirety over the past 20 years, I do NOT always want to stand up and give a rousing round of applause when I read many, many parts of it. It is challenging.

Especially this idea that the freedom that has been given to us in Christ, costs something and it enslaves us – if we allow it to.

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. • Romans 6:18

You can read that whole chapter if you really want more context, but overall, Paul is explaining that we were freed from ourselves for something better; relationship – very intimate relationship with the One who made us and loves us best.

He knows you intimately. Better than you feel about yourself, think you’re presenting yourself, better than your paycheck tells you you are or that cool crowd you hang with or huge social following you have. Freedom is not free. We are bound – if we are truly in connection – to the Giver of our freedom.

I am grateful to be an American. No matter who is in leadership, no matter how unfair for many of the people who live here, no matter how young and immature I believe we behave and present ourselves at times; I’m grateful to live in a place where I (and everyone else) can express our thinking and disdain – though I wish everyone would do it in a more constructive, connected way. I am proud of the sacrifice of SSgt. Chad J. Simon, USMC, who willingly trained and prepared with the 24th Battalion of Marines back in 2004 to fight for what they believed were the rights and freedom of this country. It’s brave. But it cost something. Him his life, me my husband and our son his father. It cost us some relationships, some of our reputation (people have opinions about everything y’all) and it cost me some of the very freedom he and the others fought for.

If I remain focused on that – what man can do – sacrifice alone, I would remain hopeless and trapped in grief and pain with no more hope beyond that devastating 9 months of our lives and the ongoing, dull pain of mourning and the difficult path it pulls you down.

I needed (and continue to need) the freedom, grace, mercy and love of Jesus.

America is ungrateful.

It will take all of the people willing to fight and sacrifice and let them lose their lives but is not willing to help those left behind be or make them better. America continues to fight amongst itself. Is that what our brave went to fight for? To give all of themselves for? Our memories are short and the freedom we splay across our chests in clothing that looks like the flag (which is actually incredibly disrespectful) is so not true freedom because it’s not steady. Not like that of Jesus.

I don’t begrudge folks the BBQs and fireworks (which I’ve not been to since the year Chad deployed 14 years ago) but all of your fun cost something that can only be found in righteousness of Jesus. It’s where true hope helps us walk through people in the messiest parts of their lives. Whether they are black, transgender, trapped in impurity or in debt. Even if they are acting happy but behind closed doors and not on their feed they are struggling with through to of suicide. People are craving rich connection. True freedom to walk in who they are. A desire to be free to be all that God has set aside for them.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as servants of God. • 1 Peter 2:16

God asks us to do some difficult things.

Like love that annoying, challenging, stressful, hateful person. And I don’t think America does that. We could. But we don’t.

Our news is “free” but so sad and distasteful and bent. Our social movements are wrought with hypocrisy and narrow-focus as if that one area of concern is the most important which leaves so many other issues that don’t have the financial backing or celebrity support feeling or seeming less important.

Our small bubbles of “freedom” that we’ve worked to create need to be controlled and they keep us from loving “the other” well or even at all.

When you receive Jesus and take steps to walk with Him through this life, you will be able to love and influence and impact under a larger banner for a lifetime and into eternity. You will have to give up some of your stuff, a lot of your self and instead place your focus and hope in His hands. It will become less about you and protecting those who look like you, live in your neightborhood, who can resonate with and agree with your thinking about the world and the people in it. And it will become more about doing what He would have you do. Which is where I believe true freedom and real change happens.

So when I see natural disasters, another mass shooting, black men being targeted by police officers, women fighting for their place in any arena or any imbalance or injustice, I do pray. And I believe it makes a difference. And it’s freeing. Even if I vote, call my congressman, join or start a social movement, educate myself on all of the things happening in the media, nothing compares to me walking in the freedom of Jesus – being able to approach Him from where ever I am at that moment and putting it before Him. There is freedom and peace in trusting in Him.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. • 2 Corinthians 3:17

Freedom is tied to some sort of responsibility. And oftentimes in our country it seems that people pursue freedom for themselves, not for the benefit of others who could enjoy it too. With God, the freedom is for everyone that comes to and into relationship with Him and His Son Jesus. There are things He asks of us, but there is so much more for us.

Whomever we accept our freedom from will dictate the responsibility attached.

I don’t have it all figured out – who does? But one thing I will tell you is that I am still practicing receiving the freedom that comes with prioritizing the Word of God and my relationship with Jesus. And while I appreciate many of the freedoms that come with being born in America, none of them afford me the freedom that comes with being a daughter of the One True King. And it is a freedom that can never be taken from me or lost. As I walk in it more fully, I want it for others – because there is plenty. No matter who you are, where you live, work, who considers you in or out, whether you’re trending or trendy or if you’re feeling less than and oscillated.

It’s a freedom that you can experience and draw on whether you live where you want to, are in the job you want to be in or not, if you are in deep dark pain that you believe no one else can see or cares about. It’s a freedom you can take with you and which can supersede the limitations and the social oppression, racism, hate and inequality. I know some will read this and be in disbelief, but I’m proof.

Rather than be trapped in thinking that my only freedom and independence is reliant on what America has to offer, I am instead putting my faith in the promises of God and the freedom He has continually offered me.

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