We could all do with a bit more of these in our lives, but I’d like to query whether freedom to experience these can be found in a freedom from the hardships of life. You see all the time I am becoming more convinced that freedom is not really found in escaping from something, but freedom is at it’s most liberating when found IN THE MIDST of something.
I’ve not been bullied for a long time, but I want to use bullying as a example to illustrate what I mean. I (as I’m sure is the case for almost everyone) was on the receiving end of a pretty sizable amount of bullying when I was little (littler than I am now, for those of you who still think of me as little ;] ). So I was taken out of ‘Ysgol Feithryn’ (Welsh for Nursery School) for a while to avoid one bully, primary school brought with it a whole host of bullies (not without the mercy of some happy friendships too) and the first part of secondary school was the climax of emotional torture (seriously what happens to girls at that age to make them so ruthless?), but you know no TACTICS, punishment, or retaliation, no amount of escaping the bullies had any huge effect on my liberation from hurt. I found a much more penetrative kind of freedom than that though. Man, it took a while, and hey, it’s not like people’s words or actions can never wound me anymore, but the core joy that I have is not easily shattered. The change had to be in me. My perception of myself, the bullies, the situation is what had to change, and though difficult, it was such a BLISSFUL transformation. (I do think though that Bullying is absolutely wrong, and should be punished etc, and there are helpful things that can be done, but for the sake of a more permanent and deep liberation then other stuff has to happen too)
Sometimes I wish I could go back and talk to my tiny self and explain that what other people say about me doesn’t change the truth about who I am. That something being the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean it’s the best, in fact, so often the norm is far from ideal, that being certain of the truth and living it regardless of what goes on around you is so fulfilling, that *living with love and integrity may seem costly when it’s counter cultural or you are misunderstood or taken for granted, but in time it brings such rich rewards, oh and so much more stuff that I can’t even put into words. But I guess that I was told a lot of that, and that you just have to live through some journeys to learn some truths.
*I threw of the shackles of living to please others. (And ironically it was around then that all the bullying stopped, although maybe it stopped as a result of that, or maybe it didn’t stop but I just didn’t notice?) But I want to throw in some clarification clauses here; Firstly, ‘not living to please others’ doesn’t mean not being loving or kind to others (which may please them sometimes) but it means that you love and show kindness regardless of the reception or acknowledgement that you may or may not get, *that the joy is in the giving, not in the recognition, and that way, wonderfully, your heart does not get tossed about on the storm of fickleness of human behaviour, because none of your identity rests on whether a person accepts you or not (and every time you develop friendships etc. as a result it’s an added glorious bonus). Secondly, just because you are not living to please others, that you will not find deep liberation in living purely to please yourself either. Now this is the bit that sound pretty extreme, but it’s true, and it’s wonderful, awesome, lovely and challenging: I live to love God. The whole purpose of my life is to Love my heavenly *Daddy. That is the umbrella over the massive complex of my actions and beliefs, next comes *loving other people, thats one (important) way of expressing my love to God you see, because He MASSIVELY LOVES each and every person, so every time I show love so someone, that’s part of His plan, He loves it. Loving people can happen in heaps of different ways, but I won’t go into detail about that now (though a few of my previous blogs have summed up what I understand Love to look like day to day).
It’s absolutely the best thing in the world, as well as the hardest thing. Every day I delight in God and He delights in me. Every day I aim to Love as best I can. Every day I mess up. *Every day I come back to the forgiveness that Jesus bought me on the cross, and know that despite my failings, God and I are best friends.
So at the end of the day guys, it’s the *truth that sets you free. Now the truth is always true whether you know it or not, so I guess the important past is knowing it. Do you know what the truth is? If you know it in your head and in your heart, I’m telling you, nothing will shake your freedom, you won’t need to escape anymore, you’ll be liberated IN your situation.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
* I John 3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household
*1 John 4
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
1 Peter 1:22
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.