Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

God’s Dilemma

October 7, 2017

Everytime I read the story of Moses, the slaves, the Egyptians and the parting of the sea- if I read with expectation and anticipation- there is something new in the story.

 

Read it again, read it as if for the first time  Exodus 13:17-14:31.

What do you notice?

The last time I read this, I noticed the pillar and cloud at first leads the people who will become Israel (will become- because at this point in the story they are a bunch of refugees) out, away from bondage into an unknown future. They have been redeemed- bought and brought out of slavery into a yet to be created future.

Once they are on the shore of the sea, there are two impossible choices. They can walk into the sea or they can stay and wait for the Egyptian army.  Sometimes in life none of our choices are good ones.  Sometimes our choice is between two lousy options.

In the story the pillar moves from in front of the people to behind them, in between the people who will be Israel and the Egyptian army.  The pillar stays there all night. “Bringing darkness to one side and light to the other side”. Which side received the darkness and which the light?

I wonder why the pillar moves and stays between the two groups.  To protect the people who will be Israel? Probably. But I also wonder if God in the pillar also had a word for Egypt.

  “You don’t have to do this.”

 “You can stop right here.”

 “You can turn around and leave.”

 “No one has to die tomorrow.”

“My choosing of these people doesn’t mean I reject you. My choosing of these people doesn’t have to mean your destruction. Beloved, turn around.”

Who waited in the light and who waited in the darkness? Could the Egyptian army have been held in the light?

God chose the people who will become Israel but that choosing of them doesn’t have to mean the rejection, the destruction of others. In fact, God tells Abraham he is the one through whom the rest of the world will be blessed. He is blessed so that he and his descendants can be a blessing to others.

At the same time, God doesn’t compel or force. The people who will become Israel and the people who are the Egyptian army both have a choice to make.

 

I once hear a rabbi ask, “Who is the most tragic figure in the Bible?”  (I wrote about this ten years ago, here and here.)

Who would you say?

His answer was God. Because God never gets what God wants, and God never gets what God deserves. But why doesn’t God get what God wants and deserves?

I wonder if because God decided to be God with and for and through us, that means that God sometimes ends up with two impossible choices?  Egypt or the people who will be Israel?

Do the choices we make leave God with limited options? What if the Egyptian army stopped their pursuit?  What would God have done? What could God have done with that decision?

What if the people who will be Israel didn’t step into the sea? What would God done?

God can do whatever God wants, but if God’s decision was to give us true freedom and choice, didn’t God limit God’s own self?  When we relate to another in freedom, we don’t have complete control over them. When we love another, we don’t want to control them.  So I wonder, do the choices we make, the choices I make leave God with limited options?  What do you think?

Freedom: For me or From me?

July 7, 2013

The Fourth of July holiday is over. There has been a lot of talk about freedom these past few days.  Christians sometimes talk about freedom. Americans talk about freedom also.  But they are not, I think, talking about the same thing. Freedom has  different meanings based on context. And sometimes we fail to consider any distinction between types of freedom.

In terms of the United States, we tend to think of freedom as individual rights which are valued and protected by society. Free speech,the right to assemble,, the right to a speedy and fair trial, freedom of religion, etc. These are freedoms which belong to me as an individual, granted and protected by the state. These freedoms may be an inalienable right, but we recognize the governments role in safeguarding these rights. Sadly many of us tend to be self centered and more concerned about protecting our personal freedom rather than extending freedom to others.

Christians mean something different when we talk about freedom. This freedom is not so much freedom for me as it is freedom from me. Christians talk about freedom in terms of the surrender of one’s self to the one true God. (Other religions do also, but I’m not going to presume to speak for other faiths.) To modern minds, surrender and freedom don’t go together. At first glance freedom by surrendering one’s self to God seems paradoxical. But God seems to enjoy paradox. What Christians mean when we talk about freedom is freedom from the universal human conditions of fear and self loathing and small mindedness and the various types of meanness that humans are prone to.

John Calvin reminds us that without God, our hearts tend to curve inward on themselves. My inclination is to see everything in terms of me. How does this affect me? Am I happy? Am I comfortable? Am I respected? Am I…? Am I…? Am I? I am the center of my universe and I ought to be the center of your universe too.

Freedom in the Christian sense of the word, is freedom from myself- my wants, my needs, my desires, my fears, my worries, my clingy, clutching, grasping self. Freedom from wondering am I smart enough? Rich enough? Thin enough? Am I good enough? Will you like me? Will God like me?

Freedom for Christians is not so much an event as a process. That clingy, clutching, grasping self is hard to get rid of and it can come roaring back unexpectedly. But the process of curving my heart outward, opening my heart to you and to God and to the world gives me freedom. Freedom from my tiny world and freedom to participate in the big world where you and God are.

Christian freedom is not freedom from fear or sorrow or sadness or disease or suffering or death. Christian freedom, curving my heart outward, may actually take me into fear, sorrow, sadness, suffering or death. Christian freedom takes me from a false sense of security that I can control my life and allows me to be vulnerable and enter life trusting that I do not go anywhere alone. Freedom from myself allows me freedom to be with God. Freedom shifts my focus from me to God. And then from me to you.

 


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