what does freedom look like?

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.

we will never know everything but we will always know enough

Tonight at the dream sessions we asked the Lord to help us get generous with our gifts. Our bursts of inspiration and creativity are always borrowing from what He has already made and deemed incredibly good. There is a certain stewardship that feels heavy and overwhelming on Sundays – that we would invest well the gifts He’s given us and it can be a bit like carrying around a blank check.

We don’t know what we’re capable of or how to get to our maximum potential. We don’t know how to manipulate the logistics so our lives will matter and our art will bring glory to the One who let us make it in the first place. We don’t know if it’s okay to dream for things too big or too scary or too layered. We don’t know if it’s just foolish to think dreams come true.

But maybe it’s what we don’t know that sends us back to figuring out what we do know – and maybe the whole process reminds us that we will never know everything but we will always know enough to be useful for His kingdom. Because the dreaming life is a dependent life on One who can make them come true.

This, dear friends, is exciting indeed.

When we understand our calling, it is not only true, but beautiful—and it should be exciting. It is hard to understand how an orthodox, evangelical, Bible-believing Christian can fail to be excited. The answers in the realm of the intellect should make us overwhelmingly excited. But more than this, we are returned to a personal relationship with a God who is there. If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong. Francis Schaeffer

The ultra religious are sometimes just as clueless as the outright nonreligious – what God wants from those who love Him is become more like Christ. The journey is looking something like this:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
(Isaiah 58 ESV)