For the past couple of days, we've been talking about how the people of God are far too content to cry Freedom! even while our chains continue to rattle, as though our freedom is a promise only of Heaven and not of this life we now live. But the Gospel message is clear on this: whatever Christ sets free is free indeed. Now, not later. In this life, not just in the next one.
So the question is: how, then, should we live?
At this point, you may be hoping that I have some insightful wisdom to share on this topic, that I have some neat little story that will help to put some skin and some understanding to this idea. You may be waiting for me to drop some truth that will make freedom seem not only real, but possible. If so, I have some bad news for you....
The truth is that I don't know. I haven't got a clue. I'm just as guilty of this chain-rattling freedom as anyone. I know in my head, and I understand in my heart that I'm free, that Jesus has already paid my price, bought me with His blood, taken my piercing as a slave, rescued me from the hostage-taker, opened the doors of the jail, and yet, the only thing I know about this freedom, about true freedom, is that I can't breathe.
At the very moment that I feel most free, at the very second that I feel like I am almost able to grasp onto this idea of freedom in Christ, I become prisoner to my own breath, slave to my own heart that can't stop racing, hostage to my awe and apprehension. At the very moment of my freedom, when this world lets go of me, I become a slave to my own limitations, and they are many.
They are many because, I swear, most days, it feels like the only thing I know how to be in this world is a slave. It's so easy. Do what you're told, smile, be content with what you have, work hard, maybe you'll get more and maybe you won't, gruel for dinner. There's nothing to choose, nothing to know, nothing to hope for because it's all pretty clear, and I like clear. Clear is good. Clear is easy. I make a fantastic slave.
They are many because I'm just not very good at mystery. I'm not good at things that are so foreign to my heart. Freedom? What is freedom? How is freedom even possible? Who is this Man who so willingly, so faithfully, so lovingly steps in and buys me at the highest price, purchases me with His own blood? What am I supposed to make of a God who not only sets me free, but who takes my place? I don't understand the heart of a God who would do this, and I certainly don't understand the heart of a God who would do this for me. Me. The person I have to look at in the mirror every day. The person whose darkest shadows I know most intimately. Does not this God know my shadows? For me....for me, He does this. I don't get it. I don't understand. And mystery...mystery is hard.
Mystery is hard, and heart is hard. This whole freedom thing, it makes my heart ache. As a slave, I don't even have to have a heart; there's no place for that here. But freedom...freedom demands not only that I have a heart, but that I listen to it. That I know its whisper. That I let it speak. Freedom demands that I let my heart long for something, that I let it ache, that I hold it with tender hands and wear it on tattered sleeves. It's not easy. It's not fun. Is this the life of a free man? Of what good is the ache...?
My limitations, as I said, are many, and I just don't understand this freedom. I don't know about it. I know it exists. I know it's true. I know it's real. I know that the moment that Jesus raised my price so high that only He could pay it, the chains fell off...but I keep kicking them around just to hear them rattle, just to hear that old familiar sound. I know that when Jesus came busting through the door and pulled the darkness away, that the gun that darkness held against my head fell to the floor...but I picked it up, just for old time's sake, just to hear that click of the hammer every now and again. I know that when Jesus stormed the prison and opened the doors, there was nothing to stop me from walking straight out...but here I sit, unsure where to go, uncertain how to move, letting the bars run through my fingers in some sick, twisted "comfort."
I know that...I know that I am free, but I can't breathe. I can't draw a single drop of air into my awed and anxious lungs. I can't calm my racing heart. I can't...I don't know what to do now. I don't know what to do next. I'm free, free indeed, but....