True Freedom

Everyone has a set of values they live by. Some people may not admit it, but they do. Studies show that, for example, most people in the world value their families.

I once lived in a country where the top value was honesty, something not particularly true of the people of my own nation. In an Islamic country I am familiar with the top value is faith.

I realized this week that the highest value I have these days is freedom. This is a change for me. I think freedom was high on my list, but now it’s number one.

I think I know why this value has risen to the top. It’s because in recent years I have found myself losing it.

Oh, I’m not talking about having lost my political freedoms, as so many seem to think has happened in recent years. I’m referring to other kinds of freedom.

For example, I was in a bad marriage and in that situation I had lost my freedom. When you’re married, you have to be cognizant and responsive to the desires of your spouse. When the marriage stinks,  those desires aren’t necessarily favorable to you.

I have also been unemployed and working low wage jobs. Thus, I have lost my economic freedom.

This has made me dependent on others. Dependence is not necessarily a bad thing in some contexts, but freedom is still lost. When others are supplying your needs and wants, there is a tacit agreement that you cannot say “no” to requests from those parties.

There’s also spiritual slavery. I was discussing this kind of loss of liberty with a friend the other day. We both agreed we have our ups and downs with God. One minute we are living righteously and the other minute we are only giving lip service to His desires and going our own ways.

How do we lose our freedom? I suppose there are many ways to do that.

Sometimes we do something to deserve having our independence removed from us. I was watching a show the other day called “Women in Prison”. No, it wasn’t a porn film. It was a documentary featuring two women who had been imprisoned because they had committed crimes. One of them had even arranged to have her own mother killed when she was 17. The young woman will spend the rest of her life without freedom, at least physically.

Sometimes we lose our freedom through no fault of our own. In an 1936 film called “Fury”, Spencer Tracy is minding his own business, driving to meet up with his fiance in another state, when he is pulled over by a deputy sheriff.

Tracy is mistaken for one of the kidnappers who snatched a six year old girl. He is put in the locak jail even though he is completely innocent of any crime.

Similarly, Jodie Foster and her daughter lose their freedom during a home invasion in the film “Panic Room.” The two have just moved into a Manhattan brownstone after Foster’s divorce from a wealthy financier.

The first night crooks looking for hidden money enter the home. Foster and her daughter flee to a special room in the house enclosed by steel. It is impenetrable.

While for the most part in the film (but not always) they are safe, but they have lost their freedom. They are stuck in the dank room and at the mercy of the scum who have invaded their home.

It’s interesting how Tracy and Foster each responded to the loss of their liberty.

In “Fury”, before the law can take it’s course a lynch mob shows up at the jail and burns it to the ground.

Unbeknownst to the mob and everyone else, Tracy didn’t die. He escapes the fire and arrives at home bitter, angry and injured.

In a diabolical plan, Tracy decides to keep his presence in this life secret and seeks revenge. He allows 22 people to go on trial for his murder. Only at the end of the flick does he come to his senses. Tracy presents himself to the court just after the guilty verdicts are read.

His final speech before the court is telling:

I know that by coming here…
…I saved the lives of these 22 people.
But that isn’t why I’m here. I don’t care
anything about saving them.
They’re murderers. I know the law
says they’re not because I’m still alive.
But that’s not their fault.
And the law doesn’t know that a lot of
things that were very important to me…
…silly things, maybe,
like a belief in justice…
…and an idea that men were civilized…
…and a feeling of pride that this country
of mine was different from all others.
The law doesn’t know those things were
burned to death within me that night.
I came here today for my own sake.
I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I couldn’t stop thinking about them,
with every step and every breath I took.

Tracy had lost his liberty because of others at first, but in the end his own he violated his own conscience. He could not live with this internal prison.

In “Panic Room”, Foster fights to regain the power she and her daughter had lost to the criminals. For her, it is a life or death struggle and she gave everything she had to protect her own liberty and life and especially that of her daughter.

To do this, Foster had to have cleverness of mind, keep control of her emotions and those of her daughter, and to make wise choices.

Whether we lose our freedom because of our own actions or through the choices of others, I understand that the only true freedom we can count on is that offered by Jesus Christ.

Jesus said,“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-37)

If I choose to reject His plans for me, I will stay in slavery. It’s not a place I want to be.

Jesus has indeed set me free and He desires that I stand in that freedom. (Galatians 5:1)

To do this the Apostle Paul writes that I must have faith in what God has planned for me and not use my liberty for my own selfish lusts. Instead, I should use the freedom that has come to me through the work of Jesus on the Cross to love.

The only way I can do this is to comprehend the love of God for me myself. Katherine Ruotala says that she has come to understand that even though she is married to a great man, no human can meet her need for love.

As I wish for a new love in my life, I have to keep this in mind. Otherwise, if I do find a woman I might see myself as a slave again.

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