Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States of America. It is a time to celebrate the red, white, and blue! We will be shooting off fireworks, eating burgers and hot dogs, and (hopefully) thanking soldiers and their families for the sacrifices they have made to keep our nation free. The older I get, the more I appreciate freedom. Growing up, I knew nothing different; so, while I said I was thankful to live in a free country, I had no idea how it felt to live in poverty under harsh governmental oppression.
Seeing the world now through adult lenses, I am thankful for the provisions I have, heartbroken for those in need, and aware that freedom is expensive. Sadly, in this fallen world, freedom requires vigilance, meeting with opposition, and sacrifice. It is not something to take for granted and it makes me long for Heaven and the effortless freedom which awaits God’s people in eternity.
Freedom in Love
Last July 4th, I wrote a post called The Blessing of Freedom in Love, and I would encourage you to check it out if you have not already. As relationship coaches, Eric and I feel burdened when we see couples hold each other back. Couples should encourage each other to experience life! For example, Eric encourages me to make friends and to nourish those relationships. When I feel discouraged in my friendships, he urges me to take action and reach out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to me. He thoroughly applauds (theologically sound) Bible studies and supports my desire to meet with other women to discuss God’s Word. When friends invite me to an event, he does not hold me back. He loves me. He wants me to be free to grow and develop and live. This is love.
Eric’s attitude towards my time and energy is starkly different than what I experienced in a few of my previous relationships. One former boyfriend lived in constant fear that I was going to cheat on him or abandon him. His fear led to irrational behavior, and I thought he might eventually cause me harm. Another former boyfriend kept me under his consistent watch from morning until night – emailing me each morning, meeting with me immediately after class, keeping me out until curfew every night, and then calling me as soon as I returned to my dorm. My world spun out of control, my grades dropped, and I felt like I was letting all my friends down. What this boyfriend had for me was not love. He wanted to control my time, my attention, and my influences. Perhaps he knew that if he gave me five minutes alone with my friends, they would tell me to run far away from him. (And, they did!)
Though I wonder how my life would be different had I avoided unhealthy relationships, I am thankful my “education” helped me recognize and appreciate a healthy one when it came along. Living with a man who points me toward all life has to offer rather than pulling me back and squawking, “Mine!!!” is a blessing beyond compare.
Never marry someone who holds you back. Always choose someone who propels you forward. Do not be the boyfriend or girlfriend who holds your significant other back. Be the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife who inspires growth and fullness of life.
When God sent His Son to die as a propitiation for our sins, He did not send Him so He could take maniacal control over us. He came so that we might have life, and not only life but a more abundant life (John 10:10). He sent His Son to set us free (Galatians 5:1)! This is love.
Do You Have Freedom in Your Relationship?
- Are you able to be who you truly are without feeling the need to change your looks or personality?
- When you are with your significant other, do you feel at home or do you walk on eggshells?
- Is your relationship filled with suspicion and jealousy, or trust and peace?
- Are you free to speak with each other, or are you frequently put down for your thoughts, feelings, and opinions? Are you able to lovingly point out your concerns to each other without fear of retribution?
- Do you both feel comfortable in your own skin and individuality, or does your relationship lack boundaries?
- Are you still pursuing individual hobbies and interests, or have you given up passions simply to appease each other?
- Have your horizons expanded as a result of this relationship, or have you recoiled into a small world?
- Do you encourage each other to spend quality time with friends, or demand most of each other’s time?
- Is there a lot of laughter between you, or only serious times and negative discussions?
- Are you both, first and foremost, free in Christ so that you can be fully free with each other?
Your significant other’s jealousy and control of your time may seem cute and flattering at first, but it quickly turns into suffocation and can, at times, be dangerous. If your sweetheart holds you in an emotional straight jacket now, he or she will certainly continue doing so in marriage when the stakes are much higher. A lifetime of suspicion, whining, guilt trips, and pouting will wear your heart out completely. People and relationships, like plants, were made to grow. Flowers and vegetation need room, sunlight, and cleansing water if they are going to expand to their full potential. Dehydrate them, and they will die. Suck the life out of your companion, and the relationship will surely die. Even if the body is present, his or her heart will grow stone cold.
If you are considering a certain marriage partner, ask yourself, “Am I free when I am with this person?” Freedom is more precious than a handsome face, a beautiful body, or a lavish lifestyle.
We Wish You Freedom
So, while we wish you external freedom and the convenience of an unrestricted life, we wish you – even more so – the freedom of complete surrender to God.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2, ESV)
Because only by becoming a slave to God can we ever be truly free.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV, emphasis mine)
And second only to freedom in Christ, we wish you freedom in love – a relationship which shows the fruit of God’s presence – free from jealousy, spite, contempt, and suffocation.
We wish our fellow Americans a wonderful 4th of July with family and friends! Take time to thank someone who has served our nation. For our friends around the world, find something to celebrate! For those who are in Christ, there is always a reason to rejoice.
Do you have freedom in Christ? Is there freedom in your relationship?
Addendum: Ultimate Freedom
Though I am thankful for my country, I know there is nothing America can offer me which will give me inner-freedom. Though I may be permitted to roam all fifty states, eat what I want, have the career I want, and love whomever I want, my outward freedom cannot set me free internally. Scripture shows us that we not only sin but that without Christ we are slaves to sin.
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23, ESV)
Furthermore, we are born into sin, and therefore, into slavery; but, God, through Christ, made a way to set us free!
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:34-36, ESV)
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, ESV)
Have you ever gone on a mission’s trip to a poverty-stricken nation and worshiped with the believer’s there? It is amazing to see the joy on their faces. We have convinced ourselves that we need a house full of belongings and a full spectrum of experiences to be happy and at peace. These folks have very little – just enough to fulfill their basic human needs (if that) – and yet they are covered head to toe with the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10). They are not mired in commercialism and confused about what it means to be blessed by God. Their salvation is their blessing. Their hope for an eternity with Christ, free of pain and sorrow, keeps them smiling. Knowing Christ personally, and being led by the Holy Spirit daily keeps them free, though their surroundings remind us of a prison.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)
We are tempted to believe they need what we have; but, eternally speaking, we need what they have – a complete dependence on God, fewer temptations to weigh us down (Hebrews 12:1), and the joy which comes from resting in His sovereignty. There is no freedom like freedom in Christ.