Happy Freedom Day!

Sure, I know that tomorrow is officially called Independence Day (or the Fourth of July in American-casual language), but by any name, it’s a favorite holiday throughout the U. S. A.–and one of the very few to hold the triple honor of being celebrated by almost everyone, being designated an official federal holiday, and falling on the same day of the month (not week) every year.

Calendars and fireworks aside, every day ought to be a “Happy Freedom Day” for the Christian–a day of rejoicing in God’s forgiveness, of confidently exploring our true potential through God’s guidance, and of talking with God as with a close friend. So why do so many, as Paul put it, desert “the one who called [us] by the grace of Christ,” “let [our]selves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 1:6; 5:1), and make stressed-out fools of ourselves trying to please God by sheer quantity and perfection of achievement? Do we shame our toddlers for taking months to learn the proper way to coordinate one footstep with the next–or our friends for needing rest after a hard day’s work? Why, then, do we profess belief in a patient and gracious Heavenly Father and Friend, then show ourselves ashamed to admit to Him that we fell short of self-imposed standards of total perfection?

If pride was a major cause of the Fall, it’s understandable that perfectionism–pride’s close cousin that assumes we and everyone and everything else should be capable of flawless performance–is a universal taint in the human soul. The incurable grumbler, the nose-in-the-air holier-than-thou type, the self-hater, and the spoiled brat are all manifestations of the idea that one’s personal worth must be validated by obvious achievement and human approval–and there’s a bit of one or more of those types in every one of us.

The idea that God loves us right where we are and is glad to bear with us through a few (thousand) failures is thus a hard one to accept; it’s nearly impossible not to confuse God’s perfection with human perfectionism. We either see Him as holding the same impossible standards for us as we hold for ourselves, or we try to hold Him to our own far-from-perfect ideas of perfection. Either way, we usually end up mad at Him for allegedly asking too much of us, or for letting things go “wrong” when we worked so hard to get it “right.”

One key symptom of perfectionism is anger at the presumed fact that nothing, not even God, is ever really good enough. We take life’s multitude of self-evident blessings for granted, see only what we don’t or can’t have, and howl when something interferes with what we consider our best path to happiness–because we are unwilling to accept what it really means to be free in Christ. We want to accept the gift without putting forth the effort of learning how to use it properly.

Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have said it: certainly it pertains to his Declaration of Independence that we honor each Fourth of July: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Vigilance–and often, as another famous statesman named Winston Churchill once said, “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” So long as this world, and we ourselves, remain fallen, freedom in Christ is a treasure easily received but not easily savored, something that can only be fully enjoyed when we accept that eternal vigilance is necessary, not simply to direct our all-out efforts toward achieving our idea of the perfect life, but to guard against selfish wandering from the path where God has better use for our efforts.

No, freedom in Christ is not something we can reap the full benefits of without freely giving up some of our preconceived notions of freedom. But wasn’t Christ’s free gift made possible only by His freely giving up His all?

(For more musings on the concept of living in freedom through grace and gratitude, I recommend the bestselling book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.)

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1 Comment

  1. Jo Swank

     /  July 3, 2015

    “eternal viligance”…..I like that.


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