Free For or Free From?

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,

‘tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

and when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

to turn, turn will be our delight,

‘til by turning, turning we come round right.

[by Elder Joseph Brackett. For more information, click simple (gifts) Thanksgiving above]

Freedom is an interesting word, often understood in one very particular way: Freedom From something – want, fear, duty, work, responsibility, etc. A winning lottery ticket may buy freedom from a job and from having to curb spending because of budget restraints. Needing no job may bring freedom from a work routine with its inevitable irritations and time constraints, and freedom from holding one’s tongue around the one who signs the paycheck. Money can buy the latest security system to safeguard expensive items, and it can buy the services of others to clean the house, cook the meals, even transport the kiddies to school and soccer practice. 

I doubt freedom from is what Joseph Brackett was writing about; “to be free” is followed by “where we ought to be,” “simplicity,” and “to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.” This isn’t a freedom from something: it’s a freedom for something. Freedom means the ability to find ourselves in the right place, which is defined by love and delight. It means recognizing what is eternal and holy, bowing down before it and bending our wills to the loving guidance of God the Almighty and Compassionate.

We will all serve someone or something – our own desires, the interests of others, an addiction, or something else entirely. Freedom lies in recognizing this truth and choosing what or whom we serve. I suspect that choosing to serve God freely is the only thing that frees me from anger, greed, anxiety, and selfishness.

It may be a simple choice, but it’s not an easy one…

Simple Gifts, written by Joseph Brackett, The Carols of Christmas: A Windham Hill Collection, Windham Hill records, 1996; Liz Story, performer, recorded at Luna Recording Studio, Prescott AZ, 1996]

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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