I have a different view of freedom these days. Before, I rarely travelled outside the US, and when I did, it was to tourist destinations. Now, I have been to countries where freedom is spoken, but not lived out. My navy-blue passport allows me access to places where others cannot move about freely. That alone was an eye opener for me. Freedom of movement. Did you know not everyone has that? Some passports are denied, or require additional documentation in order to be allowed into some countries. Other times a passport from one country is denied altogether. My blue cover alone speaks for me in security lines and checkpoints all over the world. I carry my privilege in my pocket.
I have talked to citizens of countries where the freely elected governments murder, rape, and burn their own people. I have seen little girls being bought by men while the officials turn their heads, or even profit from the transactions. I have watched handicapped children pushed into orphanages by governments as if they don’t exist, or beaten because they do. I have walked with families who live in a dump, collecting what they can to survive. I have sat in homes with several generations of family under one dilapidated-hole-filled roof while officials in hazmat suits fog the area with chemicals to kill rats and mosquitos. All of these people, in each of these different nations are “free,” not one of these countries I have visited is closed.
I have travelled the world and I have seen captivity of spirit. I have sat with the downtrodden and impoverished. I have witnessed those who are slaves to their circumstances. They do not long for freedom because they have never known it. Opportunities to do what they want do not exist. Life is sitting on the street with a beggar’s cup, or selling yourself in a bar. It is digging through trash in a dump to feed yourself and your children. It is a shelter made with whatever is on hand, a tarp, mud, old pieces of metal, or a cardboard box. Dependent people cannot imagine what it is like to add the in- to the beginning of that word. Their minds are in cages of captivity. A poverty mindset prevails over all else. Survival is their daily bread.
Yet, in my travels, I have also seen freedom of heart. A woman living in a one room hut with a dirt floor and 12 family members tells me she cannot think of how to pray because she has been given so much. She has all she needs and she is blessed. Her humble response and her contentment with so little convicts me. A man in a dump rejoicing when he digs out some oversized shoes for his 3-year-old daughter, as if he had won the lottery. The eyes of teachers and children lighting up at the sight of books, the printed words like gold to them. My heart is overwhelmed by such simple celebrations. Things I consider rights are privileges in other countries. Emancipation is a gift. Independence an honor. Opportunity is an advantage. Education a benefit. The gratefulness of those without these things when they touch just one moment with one of them is overwhelming to my American mind. The people have no false expectations…no expectations at all. Just living. Begging, selling, digging. It is all they know.
It causes me to wonder…
Can we be held captive by freedom? Are we slaves to liberty? Is independence an idol? Government systems will never bring freedom. They will always fail. If our hope is in a president or a party we will never be truly free. Instead, we will be ensnared by false hope and our lives will be a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. Every government decision will suck the life from us until we are killing each other. It is the way of war to focus our eyes on what we deem the absence of freedom, when we are actually the freest people on Earth. When we cease to be grateful for what we have been given and constantly crave more we are on a slippery slope which leads to corruption first, then to death.
God, not government, is the author of freedom. He is the source.
For the Lord is Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is:
- the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
- there is absence of subjection or domination.
- there is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. 2 Cor. 3:7
Is it my obligation to tell others there is such a thing as liberty? Do I share the knowledge of what I know or do I remain silent? Do I birth hope in them or is that a cruel trick to play? What is the responsibility of the free? Share independence or keep it to ourselves?
Freedom of heart is available to every person on the planet. It is the passport to open doors even in the hardest of places. Simplicity and humbleness of heart grow, not through government decisions, but through freedom of spirit bestowed by God alone. That is how joy can be found in the dump in Nicaragua, the slums of Romania, the bars in Thailand, the refugee camps of Africa, and even in the plush homes in America. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal. 5:1.
This July 4th, celebrate our country’s birth, salute the military who have committed to keep us safe, but do not forget to keep your eyes on the author of liberty, who shares it freely with us all.