Today, America gathers to celebrate freedom. But freedom is not what most people think of it.
Most people think of freedom as this thing with no boundaries, this thing with no lines. Freedom is the ability to do, think, say, believe, pursue whatever it is that tickles your fancy; literally anything is possible with freedom. Anything short of this isn't really free. Anything with rules, guidelines, lines, or boundaries isn't freedom.
But freedom requires precisely these things.
True freedom requires parameters, and to an extent, we know this. Even in perfect "freedom," you are not free to do things which are not possible for you. At any given time, you are constrained by the finiteness of your own being. That is, even in perfect freedom, you cannot fly. You were not made to fly. Even in perfect freedom, you cannot sprout flowers out the top of your own head; you are not a flower. So even at your most free, there are limits to what you can and cannot do, and these extend down into the deepest places of your heart and the most vibrant truths of our reality.
You are free to lie, but this freedom exists only within the confines of truth. If there is no truth, there can be no lie. So even in lying, you are drawn in by truth. You are free to break relationship, but this freedom only exists within the boundaries of closeness. If you are not close to someone else, there's no relationship to break. You are free to wander, but you can never get off the map; you will always be somewhere. You can't not be. You can't be nowhere.
And each of us has within us some guides that set our special freedom, some things that are specific just to who we are. We can do many things, and we are free to do them, but they all come back to this place of our own identity, of who we have been created by God to be. You may do things which lie outside your own creation, but choosing to do them requires that you be created in the first place, and so you are limited, to some degree, by the very thing you are desiring to break free of.
Kind of a bummer, huh? Not really.
We need these kinds of guides and boundaries; they are essential to this thing that we call freedom. Without them, what we have is something much, much less than free.
Imagine that you could go wandering and find yourself off the map. Imagine that you could become nothing at all. How would you ever get yourself back? You cannot simply manifest yourself into something out of nothing; it's not possible. Or imagine that you did not quite become nothing at all, but you became something much worse: lost. Would you not need to find yourself, or find some point of orientation, before you could do anything else? Sure, you might welcome being lost for awhile, but man does not best exist lost and it doesn't take long before his lostness becomes a driving force and all of a sudden, you are not free at all; you are a prisoner of your own lostness until you find your way out of it. Lostness drives everything you do, not freedom. Lostness demands that you be found, and any demand on your life limits your freedom.
When there's nothing to guide you, you don't gain your freedom; you lose yourself. You lose any sense of right and wrong, up and down, left and right, east and west. Without boundaries in place, you're a nomad...and a no one. You become ill-defined and then non-defined, becoming a vapor in the wind or a blur in the scenery. If truly everything were possible, how would you ever know what you were truly capable of? If you were free to do anything, how would you know what you were supposed to do?
If you were free to lie without the confines of truth, how would you know you were lying? You wouldn't. And therefore, you are not free to lie after all. You're just babbling. Words with no meaning. Noise. Nobody pays attention, not even you. Living within the lines of truth creates your very freedom to lie.
So today, as we consider our freedom, let us consider also the things that hem us in, the guidelines and limits and parameters that make our freedom free - things like love. Things like grace. Things like truth. Things like sacrifice. Things like blood. Things like....