What Freedom Looks Like

My wife and I were on vacation at a resort in Hawaii. Picture a perfect day: hot and sunny, a bright blue sky, palm leaves stirred by a warm, sweet breeze off the ocean. We strolled across the immaculately manicured lawn of the resort; lush and clipped like a golf green. Happy people could be found here and there. Some were lounging by the pool, others played catch, chatted or, like us, sauntered about soaking it all in. Paradise.

Perhaps twenty-five meters ahead of us, a father was dressing his toddler after some fun in the pool. Yet another scene of bliss and tranquility.

Then it happened.

The little fella broke free. Buck naked, he squealed joyfully and set out at a sprint—or at least a toddler’s version of it: elbows flexed, fists up around his ears, round belly proudly leading the way. His little legs pumped vigorously, monkey-style, chubby feet flapping down one after the other on the soft green grass, scampering along with all the grace and finesse of a penguin.

I’m not sure how old he was. (How old are children when they first learn to run?) But toddler though he was, he knew a few things. First of all, he knew that this was temporary. His dad would chase after him (hence the squeals) and he would ultimately be caught (just as much fun as being chased). But even though capture was inevitable, he also knew he had to make a run for it; this because he remembered something that his father had likely long since forgotten: he was born naked! Clothes, to him, were a ridiculous nuisance. A symbol of bondage, even. This, frolicking au naturel under the warm summer sun, was sweet, sweet freedom.

As this amusing little pantomime played out in front of us, the Newsboys song “I am Free” immediately popped into my head. Ever since then, when I think of the kind of freedom that Jesus came to bring, this is the little 10 second video (complete with soundtrack) that plays in my mind. “I am free to run, I am free to dance, I am free to live for you. I am free!”

Seeing my dog run off-leash creates a similar picture for me. In last week’s post, I recounted a typical trip to the dog park. (If you missed it, just click here: http://wp.me/p863BT-2A) Last week I suggested that Casey on the loose was evocative of worship. Unrestrained, she does what she was born to do with joy and abandon, just like the wee little nudist. But it is important to note that freedom is the catalyst; given the chance, she becomes fully alive, unable to do anything but what she was made to do. This in turn brings glory to God.

The same is true for me. I worship most fully when I remember my freedom. It might be in a moment when I am feeling especially free, such as when I go for a walk on a beautiful day, or when I enjoy a drive alone through the countryside (at precisely the speed limit) listening to my favourite music. Or it may be when I recall some of the things that used to hold me captive, and those times in my life where God intervened, usually in the midst of pain, to emancipate me. I see who and what I was, and how I am now, by comparison, like that little boy dashing across the grass, a picture of joy.  

Of course, the tiny tot’s dad did eventually catch up with him. It was only a matter of seconds, really. 238 frantic steps for the little one, and two easy strides for his laughing father, who scooped him up and bundled him into his clothing. Life will do that to us, and so we seize these joyful moments when they present themselves, knowing all too well that this fallen world so frequently seeks to constrain us.

My prayer for that child, and for the child in each of us, is that he never forgets. That he remembers what freedom feels like and always seeks it, never losing hope, knowing that there is One who offers it without reservation. May he recognize and fully enjoy the reminders of it that are all around him, and may he faithfully endure those painful moments that will be needed to loosen the shackles that will inevitably be placed upon him. And finally, may he (and we) rejoice in the certain hope of a future where the sun shines warm, the grass grows soft and green, and (dare I suggest it?) clothing will be entirely optional.

 

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

— John 8:36

On the Road Again


I sold my truck today. A 1993 Ford F250. 109,000 kilometres. Big dent in the door. I called it Jethro. I bought it 4 years ago at an auction. 800 bucks! Best deal ever. But today I sold it to a kid (maybe 18?) from a small town in northern Alberta.

He was pretty excited. He is, in his own words, “on the road again,” and seems to have big plans for the truck.

His buddy came with along with him. Nice young guy. Through the chaw of tobacco in his cheek, he asked his friend, “Is it a four-wheel-drive?”

“No, but you can add that,” he enthused. “Minor detail!” I recall that he also said that it would be a great bush truck. Yes, perhaps I fear a little for old Jethro, but I’m glad the kid is excited, and that the truck will be used.

I had only put 3000 clicks on the truck in the four years that I’d owned it. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it. It was great to have a truck. So useful for trips to the landfill, various projects, and of course adventures with my dog, Casey. In fact, I was convinced that it was indispensable, in spite of my wife’s protestations. That’s why I kept it so long. But in the end I had to concede that the 7 or 800 dollars that it was costing to use the thing half a dozen times a year was probably more than it was worth. Do two people really need three vehicles, one of which is mostly just blocking the driveway? Now that I’ve retired from my “real job” and am living the life of a writer, there isn’t as much money coming in, and I can’t really justify it.

So I sold it. I had zealously resisted for several years. I’d really loved that truck. But the initial enthusiasm faded over time, and the cold reality of economics won the day. So I put it up for sale, and along came this kid who was excited to get his hands on it—excited enough to give me hundreds of his young-out-of-work-farmhand dollars to take it and put it to use.

And it will be used! He’ll drive that thing more often, and probably harder, than I ever did. It won’t sit in his driveway waiting for a project to come along, or shivering through a long cold winter, uninsured and un-driven. He’ll drive it every day. He’ll take it into the bush. He might even add some more dents, bumps and bruises. But it will be a truck; an everyday, driven-hard, down and dirty truck.

And it has occurred to me. There is a spiritual connection here. This truck, underappreciated and almost forgotten, was meant for more. Why should a perfectly functional (if rather unbeautiful) vehicle sit and rust? But what is a truck to do on its own? What hope did it have of becoming anything more than it was? But then someone came along who was excited about it, had plans for it, and will help it to become all that it is meant to be. Someone who, and this is crucial, was willing to pay a price to claim it. Sound familiar?

Redemption.

And so now, as I sit here writing this, Jethro is flying down the highway, wind blowing through his metaphorical hair, headed towards his new home. He doesn’t know exactly where that is, or what it looks like (partly because, let’s face it, he’s a truck), but I’ll bet he’s enjoying the ride!