Being Free

I had a head cold last week that took away a lot of my focus and attention. Throughout the week, I could do everything I needed to do. But everything I didn’t need to do, I had to let go for another week. As a result, in the midst of suffering under a sore throat and its related miseries, joy crept in. I have come to see this cold as a gift—I still have a bit of it—and once it’s gone, I hope I can remember its teachings.

It turns out that there is a richness to sitting and just listening to the radio, rather than listening to the radio as an adjunct to something else. It turns out that there is a dessert-like pleasure in idling one of the day’s productive hours on purely diverting television. It turns out, more touchingly, that there is a depth to the conversations I have with my children when I am not distracted by any sense of something else I intend to get done before the day ends. None of these insights is new, but last week offered welcome fresh reminders of all of these things.

Part of what keeps me busy lately is my book. I have a list of little things to do on behalf of the book—efforts that might result in doors being opened or connections being made that could expose the book to more people. I do this work gladly. The book is God’s gift and my art—a part of the fruitfulness that a creative God is growing through my small life. The book is a calling. Still, it’s easy to get too caught up in the recognition of something like that. God’s will for you or for me consists of more than just this kind of stuff.

What is God’s will for you? Parts of the Bible are surprisingly plain in answer to this question. Paul, in the biblical letter that he probably wrote first, included this basic point: “For this is God’s will: your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). You are to be sanctified—in other words, you are to be regarded as special or set apart. Set apart for what? Jesus seemed to answer that part. He described his mission as “to proclaim freedom to the captives ... to set free the oppressed” (Luke 4:18). You are to be set apart for freedom. You are to be regarded as special enough to be free. “If the Son sets you free,” said Jesus, “you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

I am to be free. You are to be free. If I am not being free, then I am not accepting the gift that Jesus came to give. This freedom includes being free from the oppression I place on myself, and even includes being free of the busyness I saddle myself with out of the presumption (probably false) that I am doing some kind of special work for him.

Even if you consider your work a calling, this work is not the ultimate thing. In fact, going too far with allowing tasks to fill your time is the opposite of sanctification, because the basis of this busyness is the false belief that you are not inherently special. That is, the basis of this wearying burden is the notion that what you do or what you achieve is somehow more important than how you live or who you are.