freedom stories – Susan

susan

Being honest I had to look the word ‘freedom’ up in the dictionary 🙂 I thought I knew, but there’s no point in going on if I have an unclear idea of what I’m really meant to be talking about!

So here is what the dictionary says:

  • ‘the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action’,
  • ‘the liberation from slavery or restraint, or from power of another’,
  • ‘the quality or state of being exempt or released, usually from something onerous’,
  • ‘the quality of being frank, open or outspoken.’

Well …, that’s not ideal then! It’s looking like I am certainly not living in complete freedom yet and that’s for sure! … and I’m guessing, even if you claim to be a follower of Christ (despite everything you may know, in theory, from the Bible) if you’re really honest, neither are you.

But thanks be to God I am slowly getting there!

I am trying to remember times in my life when I have really felt free. They are mainly in my childhood, and I think that is pretty telling. There was little fear in life or reasons for worry. Back when I was really, really small I didn’t over-think things or concern myself with trying to survive or attain a certain standard to be accepted. I just got on with playing and eating and jumping on frozen puddles and climbing trees and laughing and running down the fields in the fresh air. It was brilliant.

But I am convinced that none of this child-like freedom could have happened if certain crucial things were not in place. There are certain stabilisers in our earthly lives that make space for freedom to happen and for fear to lessen – they provide a solid foundation within us that gives us stability so that we are not concerned with fending for ourselves, physically, emotionally or spiritually.  I can even see it in my adult life – when I have had the greatest sense of freedom it when I feel provided for, safe and unconditionally loved and accepted..

And as I write this it is being confirmed to me that if I truly become more ‘stabilised’ in my inner being by all that Jesus has on offer to me then I will be well on my journey to ultimate freedom in adult life. If I can grasp, by his Spirit,  just one little bit more every day of how much I am accepted, and loved without condition and will be looked after by my Father in heaven, then all the insecurities or fears that hold me back or press me down will decrease in direct proportion.

Here are a few things I have learned so far:

  1. There is no need any more to try to live up to what others expect of me or what I think God expects of me. I know now what God thinks about me. He loves me. He knows my heart and he loves my heart. Freedom! 🙂
  2. His spirit whispers peace into mine when I come and say sorry … again and again, often for the same thing. He knows I am not perfect and I am starting to accept that I don’t have to try to be. And this stability, this never-failing love and acceptance frees me just to be me. Freedom!
  3. And it allows me to fail :). And very importantly it allows me to let others fail.  And it picks me up and dusts me off when I nose-dive into the depths of sin. Because he knew all along I was going to fail. And it’s all ok – thank you Jesus! Freedom! 🙂
  4. Jesus said ‘Whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.’ Please understand me when I say I am not promoting sinfulness, but it is a delight to know how much you have been forgiven … and that has come to me when I have played it less ‘safe’, didn’t live to please others (be it Christian or otherwise), and lived less like a robot programmed by rules and more like a child of God. Running the risks of navigating the full spectrum of life with God’s Spirit there to help, rather than staying in a safe risk-free bubble where the air is stifled and everything slowly becomes restricted and lifeless, including me. Freedom! 🙂
  5. You won’t please all of the people all of the time – the fear of man is a snare … I need more work here I think!

So all thanks to the Lord for teaching me and nudging me and not leaving me the way I was. Not the prettiest  journey to freedom or the shortest route but I’m getting there!  My freedom wings have just unfurled and are making little flaps off the ground … I can’t wait to fly higher … and become like a trusting little child again!

‘…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’  2 Cor 3:17

Susan

freedom stories – Eoghan

eoghan

Mark 4:35-41 Jesus and the shape of freedom.

I love this passage from Mark chapter four. There’s just something about this ‘Sunday school classic’ that has always caught my attention, because I think there’s a lot more going on here than at first meets the eye. Beneath all of the moving parts on the surface of the story, the wind, the waves, the journey to the other side, the disciple’s loss of perspective, something else is going on.

At its very core this text shows us two things. Firstly it shows us something about Jesus and in doing that it shows us something about how we are invited to imagine life. Whatever we understand about this text, it’s clear that Mark wants us to see Jesus. But not in an abstract sense, Jesus the idea, Mark wants us to see Jesus in the flesh, because that’s the beating heart of the Christian message, that: God came in the flesh. Jesus is more than an idea. Jesus is our model for what human life looks like. A truly human life will always be Jesus shaped. This is hugely significant for us as disciples in terms of what we understand it means to be free, or to live freely.

Jesus and the Disciples were in the same place at the same time, suffering in the same kind of way, faced with the same kind of danger, but something is different. What is it? What do we see if we look past the surface of the story? I think Mark wants us to sit up and to take notice of the difference between the way in which Jesus was present in the boat and how the disciples were in that moment. See how the text finishes in verse 41 with the question ‘Who is this?’ Mark has us exactly where he wants us, with Jesus at the centre. If we stick to a surface reading of the text we might find ourselves left with a picture of Jesus where he needs to be pulled reluctantly from a nap, indifferent to the situation around him. But I think there’s far more going on here.

This isn’t just a gale like the kind of weather we’ve had in Dublin throughout winter this year. Take another look at the text, verse 37 tells us that the waves and breakers were beginning to fill the boat. The boat was starting to break apart. This is not a picture of the kind of setting most conducive to sleep. So what else might Mark be trying to show us? What if Jesus’ actions here are a picture for us of the shape of life we’re invited to adopt in our own lives as disciples. Where we’re present in the boat of life, storms and all, but free. Free enough to be at peace. Jesus’ actions here call us into a lifestyle rooted in relationship with the Father, lived out of rest not fear.

Jesus’ life is the true shape of freedom.

Eoghan Heaslip

freedom stories – lent 2015

freedom stories
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1

Freedom. When was the last time you thought about the freedom you have?

Last year I was really struck by the types of freedom that are celebrated in Ireland at Easter.

Firstly, it is about Jesus’ rising from the dead. His defeat of death and promise of freedom to all people who believe in him and accept their need for him. This is the first Easter story of freedom, which is why we have a national holiday dedicated to it. Everything else has tried to move with the momentum that Jesus’ resurrection had – laying down his life for the purest freedom that lasts forever.

The second Easter freedom story is that of Patrick when he lit a fire on the Hill of Slane, opposing the gods and goddesses of the Druids and High King of Ireland. The opportunity to experience personal freedom in Jesus throughout Ireland is a result of that event on Easter in 433 AD – a fire is still lit on the Hill of Slane every year at Easter in remembrance.

The third freedom is the Easter Rising. Carefully orchestrated on the freedom holiday 99 years ago, Ireland finally busted open the 800 years of oppression from the British. This happened on Easter with the purpose of obtaining freedom. Shortly after, the Republic of Ireland was born. As the 100 year anniversary is on our doorstep, I am becoming more and more aware of the mixed emotions people have about it.

There is something that triggers the spirit-heart of Ireland that cries out loudly for freedom – sometimes in whatever means possible for mere illusions of freedom, as was seen during the Celtic Tiger (hint: freedom is not found in wealth). Lent begins today and thousands of people around Ireland will be giving things up for 40 days. My neighbour in pilates class will be giving up everything (bad). She normally can’t give any of it up but for some reason is able to live free of those things over Lent every year. It is within this context that I plan on thinking about freedom this Lenten season – a lot! What does it mean to be free?

When we really think about it, freedom is deeply emotional. Freedom is sometimes taken away from us and returned to us. Often, someone has paid a price along the way so that we could be as free as we are, whether we agree with their methods or not. There are also some freedoms that we  find only when we are willing to lay down our own lives, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes freedom is uncomfortable.

So, I have asked friends from around the country to write a bit about what freedom means to them. I’ve left it wide open for response! There will be different voices, different backgrounds and different types of freedom represented. As citizens of Ireland, they all have lived in political freedom. They have also been exposed to and experienced measures of freedom because of Jesus.

Join me each Wednesday and Saturday during Lent for Freedom Stories and Thoughts on Freedom.