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.