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9.19.2006

An Unfragile Freedom

Today's UPI column


So There I was...

Up before dawn, though I am severely allergic to it. I had slipped silently out of bed and closed the doors to the children’s rooms. It was chilly, so I wrapped up in a blanket and made myself a cup of coffee. I turned on the TV, twisting the volume knob down low. (Yes – there was no remote, no buttons, but knobs on that hand-me down television) It was February 11, 1990, and it was ten hours further into the day in South Africa. I had gotten up, waking without an alarm, to watch the live coverage of a man at the pinnacle of human dignity. There was Nelson Mandela, walking out of prison after 27 years of unjust captivity. The African sun warmed me from ten thousand miles away. As he pumped his fist in the air, my heart pumped pure joy, and tears washed my face.

They had offered him his ‘freedom’ five years earlier on the condition that he renounce the revolution that had gotten him there. To their shock he turned them down. For the next five years they negotiated with him the conditions of his release until there were no conditions. They needed him to give them liberty from the shame of having a captive righteous man. Their big mistake? They were under the impression that they had freedom to offer him, when the fact was that their apartheid, and their prison bars, had never taken this free human’s birthright. They had nothing to bargain with, leaving them to beg.

His revolution had been built on the truth of equality, and so, in time would be won, whether he fought or not, whether he walked the earth at liberty or sat with the truth in a jail cell. It was the oppressors who were bound, and held captive by their tiny ideologies, and so it was they who eventually pleaded with the free man to give them their liberty.

I just had to see it, with my own eyes, in real time – that kind of shining, stellar, stunning truth and beauty demand attention.

I was reminded of that moment recently when I heard someone make the following remark. The context was a situation where the speaker was looking at the possibility of an uncomfortably mixed group. The comment was: “If (they) were here, I might lose the freedom to be myself.”

Wow, what kind of tragically fragile freedom is that?
One where external circumstances can cause an inability to access and express your core identity. I wish this was a rare condition – but I think that it is rather common.

Jesus said that we would know the truth and that it was the truth that would make us free. Freedom is just this – a practical, working acquaintance with truth. If you know the truth about yourself, that you are an immortal being, created to exhibit glory, truth, honor, joy and love, then no one can take your freedom from you. No one can intimidate it out of you. No prison can confine your soul or its expression. No gun or bomb or threat thereof can kill your freedom.

We have fear mongers at the highest levels of culture, politics and religion telling us that our freedom is fragile and under attack. They attempt to bring us to that Orwellian place where we surrender all expressions of our liberty in the name of protecting liberty. They want us to isolate ourselves within walls of fear, and pre-emptively attack outside those walls.

What nonsense!

Your freedom, our freedom is inviolable. It is built on the truth of equality and justice, and so will triumph, no matter who attacks. You can take it anywhere, in anyone’s presence without risk.

We say that there are those who have died for the cause of freedom. Actually they have died nobly in the cause of physical and political liberty, which are expressions of freedom. They were willing to die because they knew that they WERE free, and could spend their lives as they saw fit. Unfortunately the vast majority of battles have not been fought on such noble grounds.

I know individuals, who because they know they are free have refused to fight and have chosen to sit in prison as an expression of their freedom. They are freedom fighters just the same.

The Apostle Paul told the folks at Galatia that having attained freedom through the recognition of Christ’s truth that they were to stand fast, and to never again submit to the yoke of mental slavery. Interesting he did not tell them to fight for, or even to defend their freedom, just to stand in it – be free, and let the chips fall where they may. He did not warn them of people stealing or attacking their freedom, he told them not to pick up and put on themselves the yoke of slavery. He did not tell them to be afraid. And he most likely wrote from a hell-hole of a Roman prison.

If you don’t feel free – the answer in inside of you. Your freedom is a given. The truth of who you are,is a given. It is up to you to stand in it, express it, and get a working knowledge of it. If you express your freedom – and you should – there will certainly be consequences, and they won’t always be pleasant. But the consequences, whatever they are, do not make you unfree.

On of my favorite footnotes to the story of Nelson Mandela is his birth name. Born the son of Thembu royalty, the name given to him by his prophetic father was Rolihlahla, which means “troublemaker”.

The free always are.



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Comments:
Wow, Peggy, that is one powerful sermon - er, I mean message. Gives me goosebumps! Barbara-FFC
 
I know this post is very old. But I am sitting behind my laptop after having googled "fear of death" and am, in turn, amazed by this result. If I didn't trust God with my life before, I can at least trust that he knew I needed to read this post this very night..and for even that little glimmer, I'm so thankful.
I'm a mom, a wife, and a believer, and although I say I trust God, I know I don't, and I know it's silly that I am afraid of the very thing that will send me into eternity with my maker, but I admit...I fear death, and I long for safety and I don't want to be separated from my husband and children (in this life).

I know that the character of God and what he says, does not add up with my irrational fear. (Mainly, my fear of being shot. Seriously. I should NOT read the news.)

But even more than confessing my biggest fear to a stranger, and even thanking you for such a poignant post, I wanted to thank you for your thoughts on freedom.

I appreciate this so much. I have the same argument over and over again with fellow Christians (mostly of the right-winged-evangelical sort).

When I talk about my concern about war, they immediately talk about how I am "enjoying my freedom" because someone fought for me, and turn every patriotic sentiment into a religious and specifically, a Christian point.

I'm not saying at all that I'm not patriotic, but I feel like my perspective is SOOOO different from not only Christians, but a lot of America, that they will never understand.

I have felt exactly what you describe in this post.
I have said SO many times that earthly freedoms are not a "God given right" I have a hard time believing that killing for freedom, is acceptable.

Your post was so refreshing.
Ironic that with this mentality, I STILL fear for my safety. ;)

Thanks again,
Flo
 
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