Choosing to be bound

Image: LMAOAssylum, DeviantArt via Creative Commons

Image: LMAOAssylum, DeviantArt via Creative Commons

We talk a lot about freedom in the Christian church. We have verses about truth setting us free, using our freedom well, being free of debt. And we have some things to say about being bound to something, being slaves to love and righteousness and the Spirit of God.

Most of my life, I thought the point was to shed “the flesh” (our semi-creepy analogy for the parts of us drawn to sin). If I could just get rid of all the parts of my personality – the desires and preferences and passions and enjoyments – that weren’t utterly spiritual then I would be free. And once I was free, I’d be able to never sin and love all people well all the time and never want anything illicit or destructive again. I, meaning my personality, would disappear in a haze of Jesus love and the world would only see the person of Christ when they saw me.

These days I find that entire way of thinking incredibly…sad. First, on a personal level. I grieve over the time spent chastising and shaming and beating myself for my passion, my sensuality, my love for beauty and debate. So much of my personhood was condemned not because it was sinful but because it could become sinful, or lead me to sinful things. But it also makes me sad on a larger scale because man did I misrepresent the good news of Christ. If you follow my beliefs to their logical conclusion, God becomes a bit of a sadist. He creates us with a longing for love. Then, according to extreme purity ethic, all intimacy or vulnerability or touch is sinful except and unless there’s a spouse in the picture. It’s all of the pressure and none of the wisdom of an arranged marriage. He gives us a deep-seated need for beauty and expression. Then He calls all art or music or literature not specifically about Himself secular and evil. He wires us with these amazing brains and embeds an insatiable curiosity within us, then supposedly asks us to reject everything those faculties might lead us to discover about the world around us if they seem to disagree with a centuries-old text of divinely inspired poetry and prose.

I don’t think the freedom Christ offer us is a freedom to amputate ourselves. I don’t think God hates out personalities nearly as much as we believe. I think He made us with a capacity for love because He is love. He gave us a longing for intimacy because we’re meant to be known. He wired us for beauty because He is the Great Artist, and he fashioned us with intellect and curiosity so we would seek and find.

Freedom, I think, is living unencumbered by fear, by shame, by doubt. We are made free of all the lies about who we are, who God is, and how to live in the world He created and then called good. That freedom is most beautifully expressed when we choose to bind ourselves to good things: commitment in relationship, fighting for justice, meeting the needs of hurting people, the hard work of creativity, dedication to our own health, and Him. Freedom is seen not in what we fear or avoid, but in what we choose to bind ourselves to.

“And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment. You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.”

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet



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