I’ve had the house to myself the last ten days. I get up and go to bed on my own schedule. I am free to read for hours, and break for food when my body tells me it’s time to eat. I could walk for hours if it wasn’t so beastly hot, and I can pick up my cell phone and, at least on my end, talk without interruption.
Such an unencumbered existence was my fantasy of freedom when I was raising an active little boy and working a full-time job where I needed to go into the office. But in truth, I can live in a lot of commotion and still be free; I can live a great many days like these last ones and be held captive.
Here’s what I’ve come to know: Christian freedom has little to do with externals. It has a great deal to do with where I set my mind. St Paul knew this reality, and often exhorted his young churches to take every thought captive: “Set your minds, then, on things above, not on earthly things…” (Col 3:1). Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom12:2).
The transformation is God’s business, but the actual renewing, the “set your minds” part is an “I will, with God’s help” activity.
Let me tell you of the kinds of thoughts that can flit through my mind unbidden before I’ve even had breakfast. Perhaps you might make your own list:
- Imaginary scenarios in front of the mirror in which I am attractive, powerful and articulate, saying something quite extraordinary and winning the admiration of the real people I want to impress.
- Monologues with people who have hurt me. These, too, are mirror conversations. Apparently I want to evaluate the impact of my presentation by looking on. Funny how the other person never speaks.
- Movie clips of memories I am not very proud of. These moments often occur as I lay in bed. I repeat them over and over again, trying to find a new ending. I never do.
- Rehearsing a dreaded conversation. My day includes a difficult conversation with a colleague. I know I must initiate this talk. So I try several attempts in my mind, trying to find the best way to go forward. Of course, I don’t consider any data coming from the other person, but that doesn’t seem to bother me when I am in this mode.
Externally I may be completely unfettered, basking in a freedom anyone outside my own skin would savor. But the grasp for power and admiration, lack of forgiveness, shame, or fear can so easily hold my mind captive. I am robbed of the goodness of the moment; I do not experience the wonder or joy of spontaneous response in the midst of my other cherished freedoms to move, to think, to act without censure.
And I long to be free.