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It is definitely summer and that was made abundantly clear to me when I found myself in a bathing suit, wading and bobbing in a wave pool at Paramount’s Theme park King’s Dominion with my wife and daughter. After the 75-mile drive we had decided to ease ourselves into our day by hitting the water park first. This is why I found myself consciously loathing the doughnuts that I had eaten for breakfast as I compared my body with those of a much more youthful set.
“Awesome,” was Calla’s exclamation when she saw all the water rides that surrounded the pool. It wasn’t long after putting on my suit that we were lugging an inner tube up a concrete set of stairs.
As our inner tube began its watery descent our laughter turned to terror when it felt like the fiberglass pipe underneath us seemed for a split second to disappear. Hurling forward my laughter was replaced with sheer terror. I was looking straight into the face of my 6 year old and we were both screaming. Hers were squeals of glee and mine were frightened cries of protection.
“Make sure you don’t let go,” I yelled, but the roaring water that surrounding us drowned my voice out.
There were many more slides and pools to be explored before we decided to put our swim suits in the locker and venture out into the rest of the park. We had not walked 100 feet before we stood in front of a ride of imposing proportions. It was relatively simply named DROP ZONE Stunt Tower. Secured tightly to a simple chair the rider faces outward as they are lifted 305 feet up a tower. When it stops at the top it hesitates a few seconds before plunging its 272-foot descent at 72 miles-per-hour! It turns out that this is the largest drop ride in North America, a ride that simulates the sensation of skydiving.
I will never know what possessed me to turn to my daughter and ask, “Do you want to go on that one?”
No sooner had she said yes than I was harnessed to a seat. In the moments that I sat waiting for the workers to check all of our straps and seat belts I began to worry. Fear ran through my mind.
“What are you doing on this? What if something happens to Calla? I am going to have a heart attack and she will be left without a father! What would possess me to strap myself to this ride?”
Before I knew it my feet were dangling 305 feet above Virginia. I could feel the worry and fear turn to sheer panic when we came to a complete stop and there was an eerie silence. My heart was racing so fast it felt like it was going to leap right out of my chest.
Then we dropped.
Although I have always wanted to experience weightlessness, the drop was quite terrifying. I screamed like I have never screamed before as I was given the feeling of a free fall. It was only a few seconds, but in those few seconds I had a physical representation of unencumbered freedom.
As I left the ride I could feel my whole body trembling from the fear that falling from such a distance had shaken me to my core.
It was a type of freedom that I seldom encounter, but a type of freedom none-the-less.
What exactly is freedom? Freedom is something that we hear a lot about in speeches by our current President when he is talking about the mess in Iraq. Yet, when I read through a few of these speeches there was no real definition of the term, just an unshaken conviction that we are bringing it to the Iraqi public. This week we celebrate our independence, it is an independence that has brought us as citizens an unprecedented amount of freedoms. It is no mystery that the freedom that Christ has for us is also the focus of our passage from Paul to the Galatians this morning. So, what is freedom? Simply put, true freedom is life unhindered from any type of restriction.
The English root for the word freedom is “to love.” This is an appropriate thought when we survey freedom from the perspective of Paul. As disciples Christ has set us free for unfettered freedom. This means that there are no longer any rules, laws or restrictions that consume us in our Spirit filled life. Much like my freefall this is a terrifying proposition for those of us who want the safety net of morals, ethics and manners. Yet, Paul exhorts us to live in this freedom and not resubmit to the yoke of slavery. It is a sort of spirit led anarchism that makes most of us who are rule of law democrats queasy. Still it is the freedom that we are made to live in.
So, is everything permissible to me? In a word yes, but Paul reminds us that not everything will be beneficial. Our freedom is best enjoyed when it falls within the parameters of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is when we live with this spirit that we are truly enjoying the fullness of freedom.
I would be remiss if I neglected to point out that sometimes the political realities of bringing or preserving freedom in a political arena can sometimes come into conflict with our understanding of the freedom brought by a life lived in the fruits of the spirit. When our government resorts to torture, for even a noble end, we are forced to strongly appose such tactics as opposite the Spirit of Christ. We cannot simply ignore the human rights violations condoned by our own government in the War on Terror. To do so would be to resubmit ourselves to slavery. Anytime there is a competition between the defense of freedom for our country and the freedom that we must practice as followers of Christ, we must always be people of Christ first.
Still, our freedom as humans following Christ is bigger than any freedom a government can bestow upon us. It frees us from the bondage of sin and loneliness. This freedom reconnects us to our fellow humans and creation in a way that has been marred and alienated. It moves us to create something new, permanent and liberating so that everyone around us can experience the wonderful freedom that we have found in Christ. I hope that you are able to experience that freedom without fear. I also hope that you are able to celebrate our great freedoms this Fourth of July. We truly are blessed to live in such a great country.
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