What Comfort Zone?

While visiting a brand new mall, in the new city we just moved to, in an unfamiliar state where we know no one—and in the midst of reflecting on the fact that within a six month period I’ve finished the last 28 hours of my bachelors, gotten out of the military, found out we’re having a baby girl, and am preparing to start seminaryI received this fortune cookie:

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I guess we’ve always got room to grow, eh?

Two Dimensions to Freedom

Today is the 4th of July. For us Americans, it’s a pretty big deal. There will, no doubt, be lots of families gathering, grills cooking, and fireworks exploding. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of freedom for the last month or so and it all started when I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller called “Absolutism: Don’t we all have to find truth for ourselves?” I’ve also been reading The Reason for God, in which Tim Keller shares some of the same thoughts. Finally, yesterday at church, our pastor—Jered Rothwilson—gave a really great sermon about freedom.
Those three messages have been swimming around in my head and have really given me a lot to think about. Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to:  modern Americans have no clue what freedom means nor do we have an appreciation for how to keep it. We only know freedom with width, but for the most part I feel like we do not know freedom with depth; there are two dimensions to freedom. Allow me to elaborate.
According to dictionary.com, freedom is defined as:
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.
The general idea of these—the top three—definitions is that freedom is a complete lack of constraints, the ability to do whatever you want. I think this idea is reflected in our art, too. I did a Google image search on the word “freedom” and here are the top 8 results:




Notice all of the images (expect one) depict a wide, open area. Over half of them feature just one person. All of them envision the people with their arms spread wide or lifted to the heavens. These are all depictions of a one-dimensional freedom:  a freedom with width.
In his sermon, Keller argues that freedom is a lot more complex than you think, and I agree with him. He gives the example of a fish; a fish is only truly free when it embraces the boundaries of staying in water. Later he uses the illustration of a musician who forgoes many of their freedoms to become a world-class musician; they gave up some of their freedoms to enjoy a richer, deeper freedom. Here are some examples I came up with:
  • A single person can enjoy a wide dimension of romantic freedom, whereas a married person will enjoy a deep dimension of romantic freedom.
  • Someone who spends all their money however they want, whenever they want will enjoy a wide dimension of financial freedom, whereas someone who saves and invests will enjoy a deep dimension of financial security and freedom.
  • A person who eats whatever they want, whenever they want, and however much they want will enjoy a wide dimension of dietary freedom (as well as a wide waist-line), whereas someone who eats healthy foods in moderate proportions will enjoy a far healthier freedom.
Thus, freedom is not exclusively concerned with width, but also depth, and you cannot have both. There is a trade-off required. I can’t just go out with any woman I want because I’m married, but I enjoy a degree of intimacy and love with my wife that I could never have with a superficial girlfriend.
The same is even true for our great nation, which is why our founding fathers wrote the Constitution. Did you know that the Constitution was actually a follow-up to something else? Initially, the U.S. was loosely governed by the Articles of Confederation, which gave all the independent states a very wide dimension of freedom. In fact, the Articles gave a freedom that was so wide that it was useless, which is part of why the Federalist Papers were written and the U.S. Constitution was later adopted.
Freedom demands boundaries. Either we will place a boundary on how deep our freedom goes and we will enjoy a wide freedom, or we will place a boundary on how wide our freedom goes, and we will enjoy a deep freedom.
Jesus did the same thing when He came to earth. Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus came in human flesh and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of dying on the cross. In this, we find Jesus limiting the width and even the depth of His freedom in order to grant us the deepest of all freedoms possible. Jesus talked about slavery and freedom in John 8:34 where He says “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Sin is an oppressive master that holds us under an oppressive and shallow freedom. But Jesus follows up by saying that if He sets us free we “will be free indeed.” To get a better idea of what exactly Jesus meant in this passage, I looked at the Greek and found out that the word for “indeed” in this passage is ontōs, which means “truly, really, or in truth.” By embracing the boundaries that Christ places on us we can know true freedom with real depth. Could this be what Jesus was describing when He said He came to give us “life to the full” (Jn 10:10)?
My prayer is that all who read this have a wonderful 4th of July and come to a deeper appreciation of our freedom. God bless and happy 4th!

Building a Life Worth Living – Shame: A Mind Killer


The loss of it is like the sky spread over everything…Pride.

Not the kind that church-goers will tell you your full of when your opinion differs from theirs and they’ve no valid argument to rebut the ideas you’ve proposed.  I’ve been there too.  No, I’m talking about a general sense of being.  My “Condition” renders me utterly helpless in the oddest and silliest situations.  And I’m as a child lost in crowd…frozen and full of fear.  I’ve been halfheartedly reading through C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed”.  The following passages are of his observation and describe more perfectly, more pointedly and more eloquently than any meager attempt I might endeavor…

“I almost prefer the moments of agony.  These are at least clean and honest.  But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathesome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulgin it – that disgusts me…

And no one ever told me of the laziness of grief.  Except at my job-where the machine seems to run on much as usual.  I loathe the slightest effort.  Not only writing, but reading a letter is too much.  Even Shaving.  What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth?  They say an unhappy man wants distractions – something to take him out of himself.  Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one.  it’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy, finally, dirty and disgusting.”

I sometimes think that shame, senseless shame, does as much toward preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as ay of our vices can do.

Are these jottings morbid?  I once read the sentence “I lay awake all night with toothache thinking about toothache and about lying awake.  That’s true to life.  Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow of reflection; the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.  I not only live each day in endless grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.  Do these notes merely aggravate that side of it?

An odd byproduct of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet.  At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll say something about it or not.  I hate it if they do, and if they don’t”

There is no way to put it plainer and harsher than that.  The Dilectic here is that while much of what was just read isn’t true – meaning, i’m not an embarrassment to everyone I meet for example, the emotion of it is there none-the-less, so while it may not BE true it still FEELS true and is therefore all the more real.  Now, before anyone out there tries to shove that “the Joy of the Lord is your strength” crap down my throat.  I KNOW!  I read too!  And it’s nice sounding, but when you get to where I’m at, when you can’t see how you’ll make it through another day, you don’t want to hear that.  Instead, I turn to Moses, Job, PAUL, and the Lord Jesus himself, whom were ALL depressed to the point of DEATH, meaning suicidal.  So, don’t tell me christians don’t feel this way and don’t tell me everything’s going to be OK.  You don’t know that.  But, I’ll hold on, I’ll follow him, I’ll endure whatever cross I must bare because HE DESERVES THE REWARD FOR HIS SUFFERING!  Christ didn’t come and die for my comfort.  So health, wealth and prosperity pushers, RE-READ your Bible IN CONTEXT, especially those words in red.

And that is my rant for today…you’re welcome!