There is a line in that Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi” that says: ” don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”. (aaaand now I’m singing along to the rest of the song.. “they take paradise and put up a parking lot!“)
It’s not everyday you find solid lyrics… but I think this line is pretty accurate. We often say we wished we would have appreciated that (insert person, place, thing, season, emotion) more. It’s usually after the removal of something from our lives, that we “snap into it” and realize just how important it really was.S
The other day, I found myself in a situation where I felt my freedom was being “attacked” (okay maybe thats a bit too dramatic- but bear with me a moment). I am the kind of person who was raised with a lot of freedom, independence and room to “breathe”. Growing up my dad came from a religious community that was extremely restrictive and controlling. These two characteristics were exactly what my dad (and mom) did NOT do while I was growing up. They had an incredible gift for letting us kids be free, in a responsible way. I never felt that my choices were taken from me unjustly, that I had no say in my own life decisions, or that I was under the constant and oppressive watch of my parents. I felt valued, seen and heard.
In this situation I mentioned earlier, I felt so confronted with the reality that many people don’t function this way. For one reason or another, they have taken on controlling behaviour. Trying to speak for the others, always making their opinion the “best way”, and over focusing on certain people/topics. They don’t leave room for others to have a plan, an opinion, or a new idea. They are always “one step ahead” and feel a false sense of authority to advise others how to act.
I honestly don’t think people completely realize they are doing this. I mean, to one extent or another, we have all probably done this. But I am talking about those people who are pushing the limits on control, and making others uncomfortable. At one point, I literally felt a sort of claustrophobia. I felt like I had to constantly justify myself, or fight for my own opinion. I felt as if I was fighting against a force that always tried to be stronger. This is something I don’t think we should ever have to do.
This whole situation brought me to the theme of freedom. Sadly, so many people don’t have freedom of ; speech, religion, movement, thought, expression, life… the list goes on. In the grand scheme of life, my “oppressed freedom” is like a grain of sand, compared to so many other men and women in this world. And yet- it hurt my heart nonetheless. The feeling that my freedom was being tampered with, made me realize how much I take freedom for granted.
I then had to think about the freedom that is of God. God is the one person who would have the most right to be controlling. He is all knowing, all perfect, all love, all justice, all mercy. He could completely put us “into check” at any moment.
But he doesn’t.
He gives us our freedom.
How radical is this reality! God, who has every right to control, chooses the greater gift which is LOVE. This is why God’s ways are so far above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He let’s us freely choose him, or freely reject him. He has no agenda in forcing something upon us. Although his ways are truly the best path to happiness, holiness, and peace ( and he sorrows so deeply when we do not come to him) he values your and my freedom even more. This is hard to wrap our heads around. He will, out of pure love, let us reject him who is love. All because he wants us to be free. To have the freedom to come to him without coercion or deception.
So the act of control, manipulation, obsession, guilt… these are not a way to love. These are actually doing exactly the opposite of what God does. So it makes sense that when our freedom is being attacked, in little moments, or big, our hearts are wounded by this. We are created for a freedom that should lead us to our Father. He will be there waiting for us, with outstretched arms, ready to bring us home. And on that day, we can rejoice, because this journey to him was out of love, it was out of a holy pursuit, and it was done freely.