Today is July 4th and the messages (and sounds) of independence and freedom are all around us. We feel empowered by the notion of freedom, the liberty of choice, and the nostalgia of all this day evokes. As a lover of history and a student of government, this is one of my favorite holidays. Although my family will be joining the millions of Americans celebrating with the modern practices of BBQ, water activities, and fireworks, the broader purpose of this day is not lost on me.
I know we’ve all heard it before, but freedom really isn’t free. The concept that freedom allows us to “have it all” or “follow our dreams” tends to forget that real freedom always costs something and is realized through actions that serve someone else. Freedom is always bought through sacrifice. Every generation is responsible to guard the tenants of freedom and liberty by sacrificially giving for someone else:
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a
way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
~ Nelson Mandela
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men,
undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
~ Thomas Paine
Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that
right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
~ Abraham Lincoln
We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it
~ William Faulkner
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom
to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love
~ Galatians 5:13
What is real freedom if not laying down our lives for others? As Americans, we are indebted to our soldiers who are often called to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. This pattern is reflected in the Christian faith as we are called to lay down our lives and sacrifice for others in the same way Christ laid down his life to sacrifice for us. Throughout my life, I’ve often preferred others over myself. As a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend, I do it because of duty, honor, and love…..but I don’t always give my life away freely.
This week we signed a lease for a rental house and will be moving again at the end of July. We’ve been looking for months to find a property that would be a good fit for our large family and keep us in the area we need to be for the kid’s school and our work. The house we found, with only 3 days to spare before having to sign a new lease and stay put for another year, met most of our family’s needs and desires. We were gaining a yard for the dog, parking space for Lydia’s car, and more square footage in this move, while at the same time losing a pool and the pretty tropical landscaping I’ve come to love over the past year.
Immediately after signing the paperwork, I hit sadness and remorse. I was overcome with the feeling that I was making this move for the needs of everyone and that my desires were being lost in the process. I was losing pretty and replacing it once again with utilitarian. My freedom and liberty were being silenced by the overwhelming needs of others, and after the papers were signed my tears betrayed internal conflict raging within my heart.
While my husband and children acknowledged my pain and comforted me, they also challenged me with truth over the next few days. They reminded me how they each followed me to Florida so that I could follow my dream and how they’ve each been forced to build a new life because they gave their freedoms up for mine. From the youngest to the oldest, all of them encouraged me in love, while at the same time reminding me they’ve sacrificed too.
In a family, just like in a country, prices are always being paid for someone else to have freedom. We take care of the dog because we love the boy who needed the dog to cope with some tough things. We need a parking space for the girl because living with the girl is more important than where we live. We live near the schools because having friends and stability is more important than fading flowers.
Freedom is more than our wish list for happiness. Freedom is grand, it is bought, it is supported, and it is doing what we ought to care for others. Freedom is not cheap, it’s costly and it’s more important than me. Freedom is the ideal on which democracy and Western civilization is fashioned, but it so also matriculates down and is the essence on which families are framed. I desire to practice it humbly, whether as a citizen, a Christian, a student, or as a mother.