As the 4th of July holiday approaches (one of my favorite holidays since I love fireworks, although this year it will be a little different due to COVID-19) and the United States celebrates its independence, I once again contemplate what it means to be free.
Jesus was teaching when the Jews were trying to trip Him up as usual. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin’.” He went on to say that He knew they were planning to kill Him. (John 8:31-34)
It’s hard to think that we free Americans are “slaves” to anything today including sin. But I believe if we’re not careful to maintain our connection with God, we can fail to be as “free” as He wants us to be. Many years ago, as some of you know, I was actually a slave to alcohol before I found freedom from my addiction by starting my journey on the 12-Step program of recovery, a spiritual program which entails other freedoms as well…God-given freedoms that I believe every person can benefit from. Here are a few that have meant a lot to me – and I hope they will mean something to you:
- FREEDOM FROM SELF/EGO
Whenever I am focused on myself and my will vs. God’s will and service to others, I usually become enslaved to other “sins” such as anger, doubt and worry (when things don’t go my way or as I plan them). My expectations often become resentments. If I get out of my own way and just concentrate on how I can serve God and others, and have gratitude and acceptance, I am usually free to be happy!
- FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY/WORRY
When I focus on myself and my little plans and expectations – especially for the next day, week, month, year or even far into the future – and life lets me down, or I fret over whether things will go my way and I’m controlling, I usually become a slave to these pesky forms of fear…anxiety and worry. Even Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow and to stay in today…and to trust that God will care for all of our needs.
- FREEDOM FROM DOUBT/GUILT
Just as bad as worrying about the future is worrying about the past (especially when there’s nothing we can do to change it.) I tend to beat myself up sometimes for falling short (which is just my ego or false pride taking over once again) or to doubt myself – and sometimes even God. I have learned over time that this too can hold me captive from achieving my full potential and purpose in serving Him and others.