Friday, September 19, 2008

Freedom


"I don't want to do this...but I have to..." How many times have you heard a friend say that and groan? How many times have you said it?

Many times I talk through things here on my blog to work it out within myself. Yeah, it's cheaper than counseling. (GRIN)

With that said, I'm not making statements with this post, I'm asking questions. Because I really don't know.

I've been giving some thought to something...just how free can a person be? One time I was complaining about something and a friend said to me, "Deanna Shrodes! What are you complaining about? You don't HAVE to do anything! All you HAVE to do is live, die, and pay taxes!" That sounds nice but I don't believe it to be true.

I've always said -- you can be as free as you want to be. Do you know how many sermons I've preached where I've said that??! *sigh* But I have to confess there are times I wonder whether I should go back and make a retraction on that and tell people I preached something I'm now not so sure about. There are some areas I really struggle with. I know we are not free to do "whatever we want to do" carte blanche in life. We must follow laws and if there were none, life would be chaos. But aside from legal things, just how free can we be?

I have a pastor friend who became what he calls "totally free" one day. He and his wife were pastoring a very difficult church and they were unhappy. One day he woke up and had a revelation and said, "I can be free....I don't have to do this." That morning with their wife's agreement, they put their house on the market. Then they proceeded to sell everything with the exception of their car within about a month. Upon doing that they resigned. Everyone was shocked. "Where will you go? What will you do? Is this really mature or even normal?" These were all things they heard and ignored. They put their kids in the car and drove away and told the children they were going on a "great adventure." They moved across the country, and started a whole new life. This new life meant that they made half the money they used to make, but being that they got rid of everything they had few bills and were a lot happier. They did go back into pastoring a few years later, but said that they would never be anything but free again and would do the same thing again in a heartbeat if they felt they needed to. This couple's mantra in life is that as long as you are willing to downsize, sell and surrender everything, anything is possible. It sounds like a dream...but I wrestle with exactly what that means. Is it really that simple? They make it sound like it is but I'm not sure.

I have a hard time deciphering what is required by God or man at times. This is because there are many human beings who think they ARE God in a sense. They believe their expectations ARE what God wants. And my struggle in in knowing what to hold myself to, and what to leave behind and be free.

This includes questions such as:

Am I free to not answer the phone or the door if it's not an emergency? (Obviously I realize that pastors should always answer their phones or doors if they are working or during emergencies.)

Am I free to decline invitations of things I really don't want to attend? (unless required by my job.)

Am I free to go where I want to on vacation? (provided I have the $ of course)

Are my husband and I free to spend what extra money we might have left after paying bills on whatever we want? (I know, there's not much of that left for any of us Americans right now, but I mean...after the economy gets better...)

If I really don't want to sit somewhere, do I have to?

If I really don't want to have a conversation because it's negative, am I free not to?

Am I free to have any kind of car I want as long as I can afford it?

Am I free to sleep all day on my day off until my kids get home and I have "Mom" responsibilities ?

If I am invited by friends for a dinner party and accept the invite but then find out later that they have invited someone who is out to do nothing but tear down my family, am I free to reconsider and decline the invitation?

Am I free to not get dressed on my day off if I don't want to? (Obviously I do wear clothes in front of the kids. You might find this one kind of funny, but honestly there have been days off where I don't get dressed and if somebody calls or comes over and I say, "I can't come out right now, I'm not dressed", they get a little incredulous and say, "what??!! It's 3 o'clock! Is that really appropriate?" as if I should be ashamed or something.)

Am I really free to walk away from conversations I don't have the energy for at the time?

Am I free to walk away from a relationship if it's toxic?

Am I free to give one person a birthday gift but not another?

Am I free to accept some invitations to lunch or dinner but not others?

Am I free to go to a home interiors, pampered chef or tupperware parties and not buy anything? The hostess always says, "please just come even if you aren't going to purchase...I just want you to be there..." but do they really mean it? Can I really go and eat a plate of veggies with dip and drink red punch while I talk and watch demonstrations, but not buy a thing?

Am I free to not give out my cell phone number when people ask for it point blank?

Am I free to ignore text messages and IM's? (I hate both of those forms of communication.)

Am I free to not clap when the rest of the audience does if I think whatever just happened wasn't really that good?

Am I free to not buy candy bars from kids who come up to me and ask me to buy them for their school or sports team?

Am I free to not answer if people ask how much I paid for something?

Am I free to hang up if I don't like the way a conversation is going?

Am I free to not answer when someone asks how much money I make?

Am I free to not answer someone if they ask how much I paid for an outfit?

Am I free to spend my birthday any way I want to? (Of course I mean aside from sinful behavior...I'm not talking about going out and getting drunk. What I mean is, if you want to go rollerskating but everybody else wants you to go to Applebees, are you free to? )

Are you free to... _____________________________?

That is the question. Again it comes down to -- what are man's expectations and what are God's? The two are not the same...but many times become complicated and intertwined way more than I would like. It's confusing. I know we technically "physically" can do all of the above, but can we really, without ramifications? And if we have automatic ramifications to all this, are we really ever free? We could do all the above but we might be labeled uncaring, cheap, materialistic, unGodly, or a litany of other things and maybe even face more than the consequence of people just thinking those things. Some of the questions are not black and white and clear cut, they are all situational. I realize that.

Yes, I know that according to scripture everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. But exactly how does that translate into all the above scenarios and ones like them? Some say, "just be spirit led". Okay, is that really all there is to it? We are free from sin because of the blood of Jesus. We can also be free of our past, our emotional pain, even our physical pain. But there's more to life than that. We all have these scenarios in life and all I know is this... I love people to pieces. Really I do! But there are times that I take way too many calls I don't want to take, go to far too many events I don't want to go to, and listen to a bunch of stuff I'm not really sure God expects me to. And all the while I wonder, "how free am I...really?"

How free are you?

**those in the ministry please feel free to answer anonymously to give me an honest answer.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

A faithful follower and friend here. As I read this tonight I kept thinking, what is freedom?! Being in the ministry I never feel "free" to just be "free"! There is always something or someone that needs my attention. From my husband, kids, friends and ministry. The never endng phone calls ... please just listen as I weep on the phone because I CHOSE to end a marriage instead of seek counseling. OK but can I just set the phone down and get on with my own crisis that I have NOT CHOSEN? That is what I really want to ask but instead I feel I need to support and listen.
I admire your friends that can just let go and just go start over. I have no problem letting go it's the going and not having God's ok with it that I have a problem with.
Freedom...from sin I have! By the grace of God! But freedom to do what and when I want...no! I long for it, total freedom...but what about the natural responsibilities of being a wife and mother...forget about the ministry side of responsibilities.
I do however feel free to not answer the phone...that is what answering machines are for...screening. I do feel free to just NOT clean the house occassionally but with the knowledge I will probably regret letting one day go.
As for feeling free to spend money the way I want to...no I don't. Why is it ok for the church body to have the nice sports car they drive up in but it's not ok for us in ministry to have nice cars, jewelry, houses ect. It's as if they think if you are in ministry you need to be poor, humble and completely possession free. Humble yes...we all need that, possessions should never get inthe way of ministry but having nice things...we deserve it as much as the next person!

Anonymous said...

I'm a pastor's wife. Crying as I read this. I am free from sin by salvation but don't think I will ever be free of the things you talk about here. Thank you for saying what others don't have the courage. I understand what the other anonymous person in ministry who commented said and I have all the same problems. I don't have the answer to this but at least I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Anonymous said...

Paul said we were not to use our freedom to cause people to stumble. But stumbling has way heavier connotations than just simple "offended-ness" that WAY too many church people experience when we choose to say no or exercise our personal freedom. We feel in bondage because church people don't know how to grow up or be spiritual....(wow did I just think that out loud) lol I love you and appreciate you being honest. Helps me feel not alone in my frustrations wrestling through this stuff myself....

Deanna Shrodes said...

To all of you:

Anon 7:55 ~ I totally hear you and understand. And about the natural responsibilities of being a wife and mother -- you're right; I wasn't even referring to that. Although I get "tired" I don't want to be free of that. I love my family and don't want the "freedom" to walk away. I hope nobody took it that way. My longing for freedom at times has to do with the other areas I mentioned. I also agree with you on the using the machine to screen calls, but don't you all face ramifications from that at times? I do. There are people who just think they are "different" and will keep ringing it and ringing and expecting you to pick up. Maybe I'm the only one that experiences that...I dunno. But I do use my answering machine to screen calls or I would go bonkers.

Anon 11:55 ~ you are not alone! Others do understand. I have talked to many friends aside from this blog who also experience this and there are many who relate to you. Post anonymously here anytime or on the PPN message board...e-mail me for instructions.

Anon 9:50 ~ you have hit the nail on the head! Thanks for saying it my friend.

Leanne said...

I totally know where your friends are coming from, because we pretty much did the same thing. And honestly? We'd do it again if we had to.

It does get tiring, though, having to be a "role model" constantly. Worrying that someone might overhear us in the store arguing over which brand of peanut butter to buy, and by the end of the day the entire church has us headed for divorce court.

I wish sometimes that I had the freedom to...

*tell people off when I know they're wrong!

*drink an occasional glass of wine.

*have a bad day.

*be prayed for instead of be expected to pray for others all the time.

*on the same note - not be expected to have it all together, 100% of the time. I don't know whether I've put that pressure on myself or others have put it on me, but nevertheless, it's there. And I'm not perfect. Far from it. I don't always have spiritual answers for myself, let alone for everyone else!! I'm still growing just like they are, and I wish they'd realize that...

*sleep in some Sundays and enjoy a lazy morning and leisurely brunch with my husband.

...and the list goes on.

The ministry is a great life, but, no - we really aren't as free as a "civilian." And, much like military life, no one really gets that except others in the same boath!

Deanna Shrodes said...

Leanne -

Love the analogy of military...you're so right. We should start using the term civilians when talking about church members because it's really true...I think it is like the military. In the military when a man or woman signs up, they loose all rights and freedoms. They belong to the military. It's so much like that in the ministry. And until you're in it no one can understand! Okay, on the message board I'm now going to use the word civilian a lot, just warning you. lol

In response to the things you mention, boy do I relate...

Telling someone off when you know they're wrong -- this is the biggest one for most of us don't you think? All the conversations you have dreamed of having but will probably never get to. The other day somebody I used to pastor wanted to have a conversation with me and I said, "okay it's like this...I no longer pastor you and therefore the grace for me to deal with your attitude has lifted. I don't have the grace nor the energy so if you're going to converse with me now prepare for a level of honesty in my response like you have NEVER heard before." Amazingly they are still talking to me. :-) Don't know how long that's going to last, though.

Drink occasional wine - I'd like to have the "freedom" to do it if I wanted to (just knowing I 'can') however I never crave it. I generally hate even the smell of any alcohol. So I guess it's good for me in that respect.

Have a bad day - hmmm. let's not even go there.

Be prayed for - yeah I do feel this way but I stopped feeling that way and started calling friends. It's humbling but you have to do it to be healthy, I'm convinced. I call people like Tara even at an odd hour and I'll say, "lay it on me, I need a knock down drag out Holy Ghost prayer right now..." It works.

Not be expected to have it all together - I've given up on that one and just finally announced to my church that I don't...and asked them to deal with it. We'll see how that pans out. You might want to wait and see what happens with me before you try it. Let me be the guinea pig. lol

Sleep in some Sundays...have brunch with the man -- yeah, I do long for this sometimes but I don't even do it on vacation because I want to get ideas from other church when on vacation. I always tell myself we'll stay in bed but we never do...

You know, we don't have most of these freedoms that we speak of and we never will as long as we are in ministry/military (lol) but at least it feels good to talk about it, doesn't it?

Love you gals...
me

Anonymous said...

Dear Sisters in the Lord
I am a 'civilian' and I just read your heartfelt comments and questions. I pray the Lord's rest and peace on you all. God bless you over and over again as only He can do. I appreciate you and your lives in the ministry.
Suz