As many of you know, our oldest two children are serving our country’s military. Our oldest son is a United States Marine and our oldest daughter is a United States Navy Sailor. I have heard countless times many people thank them both for their service and as their mother, I have watched and listened to their response. “Thank you for your support.” That’s the response that has stuck in my brain.

“Thank you.”

They would never brag about their sincerity of gratitude for support but as their mother, I will.

“Thank you.”

It is hard not to think about them both and not think about the word “FREEDOM.” Maybe because I’ve heard it spoken so many times. Maybe it’s just a natural thought that comes instantaneously when one thanks another for their service and willingness to defend our freedoms.

Freedoms. What exactly are we free from?

Some of my favorite quotes about freedom are the following:

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Gandi

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” – Jim Morrison 

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Soren Kierkegaard

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:13-14

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”  – Maya Angelou 

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” – Judy Blume

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” – Sigmund Freud

“Walking in true freedom means that everyone around you feels just as free.” – Sherri Fleagle Browning

My friend Sherri wrote the last quote. She actually lived it before she penned the words but I found it the other day and to be honest, I’ve been praying about it. Seriously. If I am walking in TRUE FREEDOM, what in the hell does that look like?

*Am I giving myself the freedom to make mistakes and when I do, am I really hard on myself? Do I walk in shame and guilt. Do I do the same to others when they make mistakes? Do I shame or guilt them and hold them to an impossible standard of perfection they cannot meet?

*Do I give myself the freedom to be myself? Am I being WHO I was created to be? Do I even know who I am outside my roles, responsibilities, idiosyncrasies, insecurities and personalities? Do I see others, like REALLY see them and do I give them the freedom to be themselves?

I could go on with my incessant questioning. I wish would my brain would shut off and I could dwell on other things, simple things like buying milk and bread and if my shoes matched my outfit but I don’t. I think of inside things that constantly keep me working inside myself. Am I walking free?

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Because how I walk affects other people. I wish it didn’t but it does. I recently became incredibly aware of how walking in rejection was affecting the relationships around me. I felt rejected so I projected back, “Fine. Then I will reject you.” 

I am forty-four years old and a grown ass woman still playing high school games.

So if I am seeping rejection, which is really just a form of modern-day slavery of the mind and heart, then those around me are most-likely feeling rejected or thinking that there is something wrong with them. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe most people are way more mature than I am but if my hunch about my fellow humans are correct, even Jesus-loving-knows-better-than-this humans, than I have heaped a generous load of coal on other people’s heads.

But burning is good, so I have been told.

Now, more than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters. If we choose.

The problem is freedom. Not that we don’t have enough freedom but that we can’t handle the freedom we have. Or more accurately, we believe we can’t handle it. Freedom brings the appearance of risk, freedom brings responsibility, freedom means we must make a choice. Freedom is our problem and freedom is our opportunity. I pray we use our freedom wisely, that we don’t manhandle it or use it for self-seeking reasons that harm or hinder others because truly my friend Sherri is more wise than most when she says, “Walking in true freedom means that everyone around you feels just as free.”

Yes. I want to walk free but I think I want to walk free so badly because I want others to do the same. It is not just for me. I think it is part of my identity. It’s the Jesus part of me. I know slavery’s yoke. I know rejection. I know abuse. I know depression and anxiety fueled by fear that won’t lose its grip but I also know truth, rest and peace. I know love, joy and mercy. I know what perspective can do, what grace can bring and what forgiveness offers.

If you knew the former first hand, you’d want to know the latter.

For everyone.