Freedom. What is it? Really, what does it mean to be free? I am free, but strangely enough it doesn’t feel anything like I imagined it should, at least according to my religious ideals anyway. Freedom isn’t comfortable. To be honest, often it isn’t even particularly enjoyable. In fact, I think my freedom is one of the reasons for my reoccurring sadness. Freedom, you see, does more than enlighten you to the truth within you; it also awakens you to the lies all around you.
The truth within is pure joy. To know my savior in such a deeper, more personal way. To see Christ in me as he truly is, my hope of glory. To experience a relationship with the Divine, void of my own self-focused fears and empty of condemnation. The truth within is incredibly liberating. It’s what freedom should be, and it is where my hope truly is located. But, like I said, I’ve realized that freedom is not just about seeing the glory within, but also facing the tragedy outside too.
I spent most of my life with my head buried deep in my own ministry. A slave to my religion without even realizing it. I had tunnel vision for so long that I truly believed that was the full vision of life; however, in reality I saw nothing clearly. Neither my hope within, not the lies surrounding me. I was in a blur, and yet my religious worldview seemed clear. When someone tried to reveal either a truth or a lie that would destabilize my own masked idea of reality, I simply ignored it. Just like that. As if I heard nothing. Gone. Like magic.
Denial, I’ve come to realize upon my reflections, is a religious man’s best friend. I know, it was a close companion of mine for most of my life. And here is where freedom enters. This is what freedom did: It allowed me to stop denying things that conflicted with my own religious zeal and ideology.
Freedom allowed me to start asking questions. Freedom allowed me permission to start doubting dogma and doctrines I’d never dared question before. Freedom gave me the courage to face the lies in my own life, in my church and in my profession as a pastor. Not to mention the lies I’d never dreamed possible taking place in the world around me.
So why does my freedom make me uncomfortable? Why does my freedom sometimes also plunge me into sadness? It’s because not everyone is free. I see so many pastors and church leaders, so many churchgoers too, who are still hiding behind the safety of a religious mask. I don’t say that callously. Please, believe me when I say I hold no judgement in my heart towards anyone. In fact, if I could be bitter it would be much easier, but then I would only be putting on another mask. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to judge anyone, for it was through the realisation that I no longer wanted to judge others that I discovered I am free.
I realised I’m free, because I no longer desire, or feel it is my right, to judge others, nor do I judge myself. I want the best for everyone. I believe the best about everyone. I understand we all have weaknesses. I understand we all need to be reassured that we are loved. I accept that I am weak and in need of grace, and I only want grace to be poured out upon others. I am free from the mask. I’m free from being a hypocrite. I’m unmasked, honest, naked, and, more than ever, dependent upon God for every step I now take.
Freedom doesn’t always feel as good as it did living in a religious delusion, but I wouldn’t trade it in, and I’m not turning back now. Egypt can keep their onions. I’m sticking with God’s assurance that I’m going to make it to the promise land. Although it may not feel more comfortable, I’m sticking to the journey with my great God. Call me a fool if you must, but I believe it’s better to be free in the desert than a slave in Egypt.