by Mary Lou Edgar.
Freedom. We hear it all the time, and especially now as we approach Independence Day and celebrate our freedom from the British in 1776. As a child of the ’60s, there was much music that made freedom a household word (Everyone Has Got to be Free, Born Free).
At the heart of the fight for freedom was and is the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up, I saw that black children were not allowed to go to school with white children. Black children could not live in the same neighborhoods as white children. We did not go to the same churches, and we could not eat in the same restaurants. We could not drink out of the same water fountains or use the same public bathrooms.
Freedom for the black people who lived near me would mean being able to live wherever they wanted, go to whatever school or church they felt met their needs, being paid equally to a white person doing the same job, and being able to use public facilities. Beginning to achieve these goals — which are God-given rights — was a long and arduous task, one that is not yet complete.
Freedom is an issue for each of us.
We were all born with free will and can use it to love God and our neighbor or to involve ourselves in ways that are destructive to our fellow humans. I remember becoming eighteen years old and believing I was now an adult, a really free person. I thought that meant I could make all my own choices, do what I wanted, and it would all be fine. Clearly, that didn’t happen. I ended up in many negative places asserting my new freedom. The consequences were often more than I had anticipated. But it was a good learning experience.
During that time, I began to see the importance of real freedom and how it was denied to so many people I knew. They were people who had such a strong sense of God in their lives. They were peaceful and appeared to feel freedom in another way – a spiritual way.
There are different types of freedom.
Physical freedom is the ability to control our own behaviors. Psychological freedom is the freedom to love, work, and make choices. Spiritual freedom is about turning away from destructive desires and choosing to live in accordance with God’s will. It is the freedom we are given by God.
True freedom is not a matter of doing what you want without restraint but rather it is cultivating the right wants and living in obedience to God’s will. God-given freedom is not about exerting unjust control over another but allowing us to be independently free to make our own choices.
For me, those choices are about forgiveness of someone who has hurt me. It is about acceptance of someone different than I am. It is also hard to not envy others for what they have. These are my choices. I realize that when I am angry, I can respond in a number of ways. I can utilize physical freedom and get back at someone. Or I can seek spiritual freedom, taking some time alone while trying to ascertain what is the most appropriate thing to do.
I remember talking to a group of children about anger. Is it a sin? We decided that anger is an emotion that we all encounter and then we have the freedom to decide what to do with it. We can retaliate, or we can quietly walk away until there is a better time to deal with the issue.
We are living in a challenging time.
For me, the freedom we have enjoyed in this country is feeling somewhat tenuous. It makes me realize the importance of spiritual freedom. Jesus died so that we all could be free, free to know the love of God and to live our lives according to His will. This weekend as we celebrate our country’s independence, think seriously about freedom. What is it? Why does it matter? And what type of freedom is most important to you?
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:1
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.