I remember having a conversation with my friend Sarah in Honduras – we were sitting on the patio at a café and blocking out the construction noise. We were talking about what it would look like for a person to live as if truly forgiven.
There was a point, soon after we asked the question, where we ran out of words. We just sat there with our eyes in the air and our imaginations running wild. I think we both giggled to break the silence and then agreed that a truly forgiven life would look like freedom.
This morning, that freedom found footsteps as the pastor preached through Galatians 5:13-26. We are designed to walk, but it’s an “out-of-balance” exercise – every footstep is like falling until our feet find the ground again. Movement is uncertain and uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. Movement in any direction means leaving what is safe and stable (even if just because it is known).
But, we are made to move.
If we didn’t move ever, at all… we would never feel the freedom of motion. We would never get anywhere or experience anything outside of our shoulder width stance. Our safety in what is known would also be our prison, and one we choose for ourselves.
How does freedom work? How do footsteps happen?
After church today, over Panera with my uncle Tom and cousin Vince, we talked about freedom footsteps. Because walking is not an abstract activity. It’s not something you experience by dreaming or talking or thinking. Walking is something you experience by doing and we were made to do it.
So, how do freedom footsteps happen? Because Paul tells the Galatians that we were called to it.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
We were called to a freedom that breaks us out of the prison of pride and idolatry, safety and self-promotion. We are no longer held captive by the idols that informed our spiritual paralysis. Through the work of the Spirit, by the grace of God, our feet shake the fear weighing us down.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Our walk – our freedom footsteps – displays the power and glory of the Savior who set us free. We do not keep in step with the Spirit to prove our worth. We keep in step with the Spirit to express our freedom.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.(Galatians 5:13-26, ESV)
Tonight, I met up with my dear friend Emma. We used to meet weekly for “Dream Sessions” where we challenged each other creatively and tonight we had a reunion. She is a very special inspiration and kindred spirit. Her wisdom is crazy years beyond her high school age. As we talked about freedom and footsteps, she shared this quote from memory:
“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” -thought to be spoken by Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
A ship is not made to sit in the harbor, but it can only sail if it is released from the shore. And the same is true of us: by God’s grace we are released from the chains of our shoulder width stance to the freedom of forward motion. Walking with the Spirit is not meant to gain our freedom, but to express it.