Our Freedom: Political & Spiritual
We have just celebrated the birthday of our nation with fireworks, parades, cookouts, and patriotic music. We do live in a great country, although it does have its many challenges. Our Founding Fathers once said that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Faith played a very important role in the life of our founders, yet they built a nation that respected freedom of religion. I have always been intrigued by their specific choice of the word “pursuit.” Some people are better at pursuing happiness than others. Just look around and see. We do enjoy many freedoms in this country which is a wonderful thing. There are many places in the world where oppression, tyranny, and dictatorships are still alive and well. But I have said before that although we claim to be free in the USA, many of us are still held spiritually captive in life. What does that mean? Consider these areas:
TECHNOLOGY – Megan, Montgomery, Clayton, Wade, and I just spent the Fourth up in Sewanee. Our family was apart for much of June (Michigan, London, Paris, Camp in NC) We had a great weekend – swimming, hiking, paddleboarding, playing, and cooking out with some Woodmont friends. One of the things I love about Sewanee is we get away from our phones – i-distractions as I’ve heard them called. These devices make life convenient. At the same time, we can’t seem to turn them off. Boundaries have disappeared. We are available all the time, we work constantly, and more than anything, I worry about what this is doing to the quality of our spiritual lives and to the communication skills of our children. It seems as though technology has eliminated our ability to be present in the moment.
UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS – Relationships can be healthy, unhealthy, or indifferent. Many people find themselves in unhealthy relationships or friendships that keep them from pursuing happiness. These relationships either need to be corrected or even eliminated. Toxic people have a way of spreading their toxicity to others. Life is too short for that. We should all work to build healthy relationships in all areas.
DEBT & MATERIALISM – It’s been said before that we “buy things that we don’t need with money that we don’t have to impress people that we don’t really care about.” That’s a pretty profound statement! We live in a consumer culture where we never feel like we have enough. Why? Because there is always somebody who has more and we feel like we need to keep up. As Nashville booms and our culture has grown more secular, materialism has steadily increased and holds many of us captive. The secret is to simplify, to live within our means, and to be thankful for what we have because what good does it do you to accumulate more if you can’t be thankful for it anyway? The scary thing about materialism (and greed) is that it happens on every single socioeconomic level.
ADDICTIONS – Addictions soared during the pandemic era. Addictions are the way that we deal with our ongoing sense of fear and anxiety. Addictions may include excessive worrying, drinking too much, smoking too much, overeating, overmedicating, overworking, and overspending. Some addictions are healthier than others but they are still addictions. Thankfully, twelve-step programs continue to help many people in our culture but guess what? Addictions are the way that we fill voids in our spiritual lives, and treating the symptoms is not the same as treating the cause. Prayer, meditation, worship, exercise, and counseling are healthier ways to address our fears and anxieties. Part of being human is dealing with an ongoing sense of restlessness and it’s up to us to get it under control. There is a “hole in our soul” that only God can fill.
ANGER & RESENTMENT – Because we live in a highly competitive culture, there is a lot of anger. Conflict arises for ridiculous reasons between people and groups. Usually it is fear based and it results from a failure to build bridges and to sit down and talk things out face to face (we’d rather text or email because it’s more convenient). Anger and resentment is often directly tied to materialism – there is a lot of jealously between people when somebody wants what somebody else has. Learning to forgive is essential, and learning to keep a cool head is a spiritual discipline. Angry outbursts usually accomplish nothing.
These are just a few of the things that I see holding many of us spiritually captive in our free land. We find incredible freedom in the love of God and the gospel message. Christ is who can truly set us free. So as we move ahead after July 4th and give thanks for the freedom we do enjoy, let us work hard in our own lives to break free from these things that enslave, these self-made prisons that we create. Jesus will show us the way. Are we willing to follow?
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