My God of Freedom

Earlier this month, as I watched our Independence Day fireworks illuminate the summer sky, I started thinking about God—and how I could almost see His smile in the light. It occurred to me that, although He hasn’t approved of everything we’ve done in our history as a nation, He has beamed at the still prevailing thought which inspired our nation’s birth.

Here’s how I know that: I go back to the garden. I see Adam and Eve standing at the tree of knowledge, unaware that their Creator is watching them. With a simple touch—one taste of the poisonous fruit—they are poised to defy the sole command of their God. He saw the whole thing. He knew what it meant—and what He would have to do to bring them back to Him. He could’ve stopped it effortlessly, but He didn’t. He didn’t stop it, because it was never His intention to crush them with His power. He wanted their love, and He knew that love expressed under force is not love at all. He wouldn’t force them to love Him, yet how could they not have loved a God like that? He gave them their freedom in the hope that someday, they might give Him their hearts.

This is the God I love, and it is He alone whom I endeavor to serve—no matter what.

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You are Mine.

Last week, I wrote about God’s unchanging nature in comparison to the ever-changing world around us. Today, I want to write about a very specific change that I’ve seen in the world of late. It’s one that weighs heavily and constantly upon my heart and mind, and I haven’t written about it until now because I believe that doing so requires a great deal of care—and tenderness on my part.

I can’t remember the last time I ventured outside my house and didn’t see an American flag waving at half mast. Not so long ago, to see such a thing would have been rare. I know that it would have, because I’m old enough to remember when it was. Yet, each new day seems to take us further away from that time, and sometimes I fear that the generation to come will have no memory of it at all. Children will come to see the image of our nation in mourning as a normal part of their daily lives—just as I am beginning to do now.

I have to feel that. I have to stand in the midst of this new reality and understand what it makes me feel—what it does to me. But I also have to stand outside of it in order to stay within the will of God. Deep in my heart of hearts, I know that to be true. I keep thinking lately about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, on the night before he was killed. I have this image in my mind of him going to that place—that beautiful garden on that moonlit night—just trying to find a sense of relief. A soothing balm to hush his pain in knowing the agony to come. I see his body trembling as he falls to his knees, desperate for the softness of the grass as he soaks it in his sweat and his tears. But he finds no comfort there. The tranquility surrounding him mocks the terror within him, and in his anguish, he cries out: Please, don’t. Don’t make me do this. Don’t let them hurt me. I’m frightened!

Oh, that someone would have held him in that moment—that I had been allowed to calm his trembling. But I digress. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. I’ve been afraid for my life before, but I’ve never been God. I’ve never been God in human flesh, waiting for a violent death at the hands of my beloved. And it’s so amazing to me that, as a man, and in spite of the torture he was under, he was ultimately able to say the words: Yet not what I want, but what You want. In the love he had for his Father, he was willing to submit to this suffering—even if it meant he had to die. And I know that I can do no less. If I claim to love God with all my heart, then how can I defy His will? How can I defy His command to love my enemies—to see them through His eyes—and to know that He died for them, just as He died for me. How can I ignore His words to Israel, when He told them, “Do not fear; for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely, I will help you… (Isaiah 41:10, NASB).” …”Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine (Isaiah 43:1, NLT).”

These things are much easier said than done. God knows that. Jesus, himself, knew what it felt like to be afraid. But he put his fear behind his love—behind his devotion and trust in the will of his Father. So, as I go to look upon the cheerless image of my lowered flag, I pray that I will also bow. That I will fall to my knees in humility before my God, saying: Not what I want, but what You want—for I am Yours. We are yours.