In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5
When I was 10 years old, I yearned for the day I would be free. I suspect this thinking has been pretty common among kids since Adam & Eve were expelled from the Garden. As a child, parents make rules that seem to restrict freedom. That was certainly true for me. When I wanted to play, my parents had chores for me to do. When I wanted to stay up late at night to watch TV, I was told to go to bed. When I didn’t want to eat liver and onions, I was told that I had to because liver was good for me. (Not everything parents tell their children is in their best interest! But that is another topic for another day.) And so I yearned for the day when I could be free to make my own decisions.
Well, that day came all too quickly. Before I knew it, I was an adult with the ability to choose how and where I spend my time, and in what activities. Sometimes those activities were uplifting. And sometimes they were self-destructive. As I look back at my own life and the decisions I have made, both good and bad, I find that I make them in the pursuit of freedom. I want to be my own person. I want to do and think and be what makes me happy, what I want to do, without any encumbrances from outside influences. In other words, I want to make my own rules. Perhaps this is the human condition, the pursuit of freedom that we think can only come if we make the rules and disregard any other rules.
It is my observation that addictive behavior comes from a disregard of God’s rules in favor of my own rules in the pursuit of freedom. One reason it doesn’t work to make our own rules is that they often come out of our deepest fears and greatest dysfunctions. The fear of rejection, the need for approval, the desire for success can cause me, and I’m sure many others, to write some crazy rules. Work can become an addiction as I forever seek one more accolade, one more “atta boy”, and one more impossible task made possible.
But true freedom does not come from our fears. True freedom is not in doing more things to make us feel better about ourselves. True freedom does not come from attempting to rewrite the laws of nature, as if we could. True freedom comes from living within the rule of love that brings life, happiness, joy, and peace. Said another way, when love rules, freedom reigns.
King David knew something about writing his own rules for life that brought heartache rather than peace, bondage rather than freedom. And so he wrote Psalm 118 as a hymn to be sung on the way to a festival of worship. It is an anthem to be sung when we go to worship God. And part of this anthem is an acknowledgement that freedom emanates from God, not us. The circumstances of life that are outside of us and the demons of life that are within us can make us feel like we need to rewrite the rules of life in order to experience freedom. But this is a lie from the devil, himself.
The truth about freedom is that it is given to us every time we call out to God in distress. When we reach out to God, spend time with Him, talk with Him, and clear some space in our heads to be with Him, we experience freedom. He will replace our misguided thoughts about ourselves and our self-destructive beliefs about life that enslave us with thoughts of unconditional love and abiding acceptance that will set us free. True freedom allows us to live in joy and peace as we are motivated by faith, hope, and love. These are the eternal rules of the universe that bring everlasting freedom. May we live by His rules. May we lift one another up in our pursuit of freedom. May we never again write our own rules, but rather submit to the rule of our all powerful, all loving, indwelling God.