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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Law of Liberty

           In watching my kids’ dramas, I observe how much can be learned from the parables of our children’s crises.  When my son was a preschooler and my daughter a toddler, their initially happy play at a game my son was creating hit a crisis one evening and I heard my little girl screaming, high-pitched, in an open nook behind our couch.  “What happened?” I exclaimed, and heard her brother’s explanation: “She cheated!  She’s in time-out!”  Holding back chuckles while rescuing my toddler, I said, “Buddy, she doesn’t understand your rules.  You need to let her play her way.”  It didn’t penetrate.  With angry arms crossed, he insisted, “She was cheating!”
            I thought to myself, “Just like the Church: setting his own rules and then punishing others for breaking the rules he made up.”  Jesus complained of the teachers of his day too, who were “teaching as doctrines commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).  Elsewhere, he condemns them more forcefully: "what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Luke 11:46, NLT).  Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly working to liberate people from restrictive rules designed by men.

 
 

Ironically, the most powerful institution that was birthed from his ministry, the Catholic Church, instituted what were likely far more demanding regulations and punishments for breaking those regulations than those Jesus had freed his own followers from.  Still, church after church has followed suit.  But if we Christians follow the teachings of our Master, which James calls the “law of liberty,” we’ll be set free into abundant life.

            The most recent sibling crisis in our family took place a couple of weeks ago when my kids and I were on a bike ride.  Big brother had to show off and go really fast and little sister had to keep up, while mom was trailing far behind, but impressed with her daughter’s speed on a bike with wheels so small.  When we arrived, my daughter was in tears.  Her brother is “too competitive,” “won’t ever slow down,” and “doesn’t care.”  After a sympathetic “I know,” a pause, a “Let him do his own thing,” and another pause, I looked my daughter in the eyes and said, “Sweetie, I was left way back in the dust, and I’m not crying.”  Needless to say, that didn’t satisfy her. ;)

            The lesson here is that it’s not always the external force that punishes us.  We punish ourselves, and this is the more damning of the two types.  And even when it appears that the external force (like my son) is doing the punishing, in truth, it’s always an internal choice.  Though she didn’t know it, my daughter could have let herself out of her brother’s time-out, but she accepted the punishment he inflicted, thereby making it internal.

            All of this, of course, is more complex in adult life; however, this idea is the basic principle behind Jesus’ induction to “turn the other cheek.”  He saying, “Don’t internalize an external punishment.”

            We can also choose to play or to bypass the rules and modes of operandi of those in our midst.  My daughter might have complained that her brother is “too competitive,” but what about her?  Why not hang back with slow-going mom? ;)

            So why do we have drama?  Because we permit external forces to determine our way.  Sometimes, we choose to give such power to external forces.  Perhaps we surrender for the sake of societal order or for our own growth, as we trust in a teacher for our long-term benefit, even if short term moments may be amiss.  Even a deeper impulse of growth may have been working within my daughter, who grows by trying to keep up with her brother. 

Or we choose surrender for the sake of love, recognizing our own surrender will help another to grow.  Often, we surrender because we’ve fallen in love and the external force is the one we love.  Sometimes, we think we are in love and perhaps have become needlessly attached, so our choices to surrender can be quite complicated.

            If we are unconsciously following the path others are telling us to take, we remain unnecessarily enslaved.  The choice of independence is a key part of the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus noted to be “within” (Luke 17:21).
 
 

When we do surrender our freedom, the key for us is to determine whether we have done so by choice for a higher cause, or whether we have unconsciously relinquished the law of liberty given to us by Christ to an external authority.  Ironic though it may be, we Christians are most likely to unconsciously relinquish our freedom to our church authorities.  If we have, have we done so consciously, by choice, in the recognition that it is for our long-term growth, or have we done so unconsciously, thereby perhaps ironically undermining our own growth?

As we quietly still ourselves before the Lord (psalm 46:10), set our minds on things above (Col 3:2), listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, examine the scriptures for confirmation, review our discoveries with those we trust, and remain faithful to the law of love, we will find the law of liberty to become evident in our lives as well.

12 comments:

  1. The following are comments to the above blog post to ChristianMystics.com. As the site may not remain, they are now archived here one-by-one.

    David Muriel says:
    August 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Hi Karina,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s great that you can find such deep spiritual truth in a common everyday situation that many parents would just be aggravated by. It goes to show that if we just open our eyes to see, there is so much the Lord is willing to share with us in every moment.

    The way you expressed this concept through the scriptures really brings it to life, especially at the beginning with the references to the teachers of Jesus’s day. I only hope that more people will come to understand the true freedom that we have in Christ, its all there, laid out in the scriptures, its just a matter of what you “want” to see. I guess, like you wrote, “we punish ourselves”, so perhaps that’s why many people focus on scriptures of condemnation instead of those of Christ’s love and liberty.

    P.S. I like that you wrote this 10 days ago, very intuitive : )

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    1. Karina says:
      August 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Amen to seeing the true freedom, David M, and to how much the Lord is sharing with us if we’re willing to see. Blessings.

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  2. Steve Schrader says:
    August 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Karina,
    I enjoyed your post, but then I always enjoy your writing. It’s great that you could bring a “real life drama” to the discussion. It was very timely.
    I think children really require some external authority in their lives. They would be lost without it. But later, some adults seem to have a bit of trouble developing their own internal authority.

    I suppose it doesn’t say much for our self-esteem that we are constantly seeking approval or punishment from an all- powerful authority figure. It seems to me that we need to develop enough trust in ourselves to make good choices. Of course, much of that is trial and error, but maybe that’s what wisdom is all about!

    Peace.
    Steve

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    1. Karina says:
      August 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you, Steve, and I entirely agree with you.

      Just as you’ve noted the aid of an external authority for children, it’s also true that one is helpful for those who are early in their spiritual path. I didn’t take the time to explore this dynamic in the post, but will at least make a passing nod to it here. As we grow, may we find that trust you’ve pointed to.

      Shalom,
      Karina

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  3. Fred says:
    August 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Karina,

    Wonderful words of wisdom. It is fitting how a person can reflect spiritually to all three aspects of the journey which was conveyed by your children and you on your bike ride. Sometimes I get in a hurry and want the journey to move quicker and I don’t understand why it seems God lags behind, but nevertheless He is always there and has his own pace. Other times, I feel caught up in the middle and can’t seem to make much progress and find myself clinging to others for answers rather than seeking God who I know has not left me but beckons me to keep moving forward. And yet still, I find myself bringing up the rear and seeing the distance so far ahead but recognizing there is a rest in this and the burdens can be given over to take up Christ’s yoke rather than struggling needlessly.

    I suppose because life is so full of questions which are often baffling and the challenge of everyday to keep the recognition of God’s love still constant no matter what, many people tied in knots are unable to see the Way. Still, God is there for us. We may be on the fast bike, the small bike with fast wheels but still struggling, or bringing up the rear – in all of these and many other myriad speeds of life God is still on a constant pace with us no matter where we are in our lives.

    And, despite the challenges along the way, He can change things for our good along the ride.

    Peace
    Fred

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    1. Karina says:
      August 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      Nice Fred,

      I like how you saw more into the bike ride analogy and how the Lord meets us at our own speed and pace. Great insight here too: “I suppose because life is so full of questions which are often baffling and the challenge of everyday to keep the recognition of God’s love still constant no matter what, many people tied in knots are unable to see the Way. Still, God is there for us.” Right on.

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  4. Chuck Dunning says:
    August 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Beautiful post, Karina, as always! I always love your ability to connect the abstract with everyday life. Also, a very insightful conversation on the heels of it!

    One of the things I find very interesting here is the relationship between independence and interconnectedness, liberty and responsibility. They’re aspects of the duality-unity discussion, aren’t they? I think it is our childlike and instinctive knowledge of interconnectedness, as well as our deep desire to more fully realize that togetherness, that makes us so sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others, to internalizing everything from them, whether it is healthy or not. And yet we cannot deny an equally inherent sense of self as distinct, unique, and thus seemingly apart from others. Experience teaches us the hard way that fulfilling the greatest possibilities for our existence, our being, comes with harmonizing these two apparently disparate aspects of our being.

    Agape,
    Chuck

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    1. Karina says:
      August 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      I’m also enjoying all the insightful replies here, Chuck, and most certainly yours. Once relationship comes into play, so much more is at stake. My daughter my have been inspired less by competition than by phileo love to keep up with her brother — just to be with him. How much happier would she have been had he returned it with either phileo or agape love! But then, she still a child and he now a “tween” (a term he hates), some of these conflicting aspects become magnified. While he’s exploring more of the independence/liberty angle in life, she’s maintaining her “childlike and instinctive knowledge of interconnectedness.” Still, no matter how young or old we are, we all carry all of these aspects within us, and, yes, harmonizing them remains quite a challenge.

      Thanks again,
      Karina

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  5. lauren says:
    August 19, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Hi everybody, I’m just returning to ChristianMystics after some time away, a recent move to Norway, and much dissolving of
    old foundations. I’ve missed *Christian mystic* talk — have been doing most of my sharing on a nondual philosophy list.
    Anyway, just want to say I find the question of the relationship between independence and interconnectedness very interesting.
    I find this condundrum everywhere laced throughout the writings of Simone Weil, one of my favorite philosophers.
    She says that in the “cave” (dualistic mind / world) there can be no relation; relation is anathema to a state based
    on separation, fragmentation. In the same essay she says, conversely, “To relate belongs to the solitary spirit.” (essay
    on The Great Beast.) Interesting, eh? She also clearly differentiates “relationship” from “the social.” “Relationship
    breaks out of the social. It is the monopoly of the individual. Society is the cave; the way out is solitude.” Beautiful paradox!
    ~~~ laurie

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    1. Karina says:
      August 19, 2013 at 9:13 am

      Very interesting, Lauren.

      I guess I can’t stop returning to the Gospel of Thomas. There, saying 49 says, “Blessed are the solitary,” as these “will find the kingdom.” When we come to this world, we enter into what many mystics call the “illusion of separation.” Ironically, to “dissolve old foundations,” as you say, or to “debrainwash,” as I say, of our illusion of separation, we have to somehow separate ourselves! Nice quote: “Society is the cave; the way out is solitude.” Yes, a paradox. Thanks!

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    2. lauren says:
      August 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

      thanks Karina,

      “blessed are the solitary” as “these will find the kingdom.”
      and the kingdom is communion with all living things!
      the paradoxes start to pile up

      Love smiles contentedly.

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  6. Dave M says:
    August 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Paradoxes, .. like how you have must lose your life in order to gain eternal life; lettong go if your self in order to truly live in that communal state with all others, it’s interesting how paradoxes work.

    ReplyDelete

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