Choose Freedom

By Clifford S. Foerster

It's one of the greatest blessings in the world. But often, we don't feel free. We want to be independent from our parents and teachers. We want the freedom to be who we want to be. And yet, sometimes it seems so difficult in the face of "so many rules." So, we challenge boundaries in order to find our freedom, to define ourselves. The search for freedom is part of teenage life.

But are we willing to take the consequences of pushing the boundaries?
Often times, we look only at the wall keeping us in. We don't look past it. And when we break through the wall and fall off a cliff, we realize -- on the way down -- that the wall was there to keep us from falling. Rules from parents, teachers, and society are usually walls to support us, to keep us from falling. And while we may believe we don't need the walls, we might as well accept that walls are there. Knowing this, we can use our energies to discover how to be free -- regardless of the walls and in any situation.

How or where can we be free?

We can think whatever we like. Freedom of thought is one freedom no one can ever take away. What we think about influences who we are, shapes our days, and impacts our lives. What we want in our lives starts in our thoughts. We are bombarded by ideas constantly -- from billboards, TV programs, ads, music, teachers, friends, parents, etc. Ideas come at us from all sides. We have the choice to let the ideas stay in our thoughts, or we can usher them out of our minds.

The problems begin when we don't take an active role in maintaining the clarity of our own thinking. Many thoughts are happy, imaginative, and freeing. These thoughts need to be explored and used as a foundation for our actions. But other thoughts are dark and limiting -- thoughts like: "I am alone; I am incompetent; I am sick; I am violent; I am ugly; I am angry; I am a victim; I am out of control…." When we let these thoughts take over our consciousness, we are being enslaved by a limited concept of ourselves. As a result, we are not living up to God's idea of us.

So how do we choose freedom?
Sometimes, everything looks dark, and focusing on the light is difficult. But it is possible to lighten up our thoughts.

  1. We have to refuse to listen to negative, limiting thoughts about ourselves. We need to let those thoughts just pass by us.
  2. We need to think about the good that is possible.
  3. We need to think of things for which we are grateful.

Being grateful is one of the best ways to feel free. Think about it. We all have something to be grateful for, and gratitude gives us a rich outlook on life. Our thoughts can be as rich and free as we choose.

Jesus affirmed:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

So, if you had all the freedom in the world (and you do in thought) how would you answer these questions:

  • How do I want to spend my day?
  • Who am I, and what kind of person do I want to be?
  • What direction do I want my life to go?

It's quite all right if you don't know. I don't think that when one of the world's greatest freedom fighters was a teenager, he had planned to write down the Ten Commandments. In fact, he was probably breaking one or two of them. And walking into Egypt and walking out with most of Pharaoh's slaves (the Jews) probably wasn't on Moses' "to do" list either. And later in life, if Moses had done things his way, I think he might have roasted a marshmallow or two on the burning bush and called it a day. But he didn't. Rather, "Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (Ex. 3:3). And that choice to understand God's purpose for him enabled Moses to help his people gain freedom from the Egyptians.

Was Moses scared? Was he hesitant?
Absolutely! In his own words: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex. 3:11). But God proved to Moses that "I AM" (Ex. 3:14) indeed is in charge. If Moses would just trust God, God would make everything possible.

Moses did what God told him to do. Was this freedom?
Yes! He made the choice to listen to God and to follow God's instructions. Despite his fears, Moses obeyed God and freed an entire people (Ex. 4-15). If you listen to God and follow His instructions, then you know that no matter what happens, you are on a protected path. Such a protected path gives you the greatest freedom imaginable.

Now Moses had a very clear message from God. But how do we know God's voice if it's not broadcasted from a burning bush?
When I have to make a tough decision:

  • I always get really still.
  • Then I clarify what I personally want.
  • Once I know that, I push it aside and ask God what is the right thing to do.
  • Usually I feel the answer in my gut. I know the right thing to do. Sometimes it's what I wanted to do anyway, and sometimes it's not.
  • Then comes the tough part -- following through.

I choose to listen to God, because when I haven't, I have always eventually ended up in trouble. Because this is a free country, people have the choice to follow the wrong path.

In every society there are rules. And if you decide not to live by them and are caught, you will be punished and not enjoy your freedom. If you are not caught, you will live in fear of being caught and spend countless amounts of energy avoiding authorities or feeling guilty -- again, not enjoying freedom. Pharaoh could have listened to God and let the Jews go. He didn't have to suffer the plagues. But he chose to do things his way. And when personal will is not consistent with God's will, trouble comes to plague us.

So what is ultimate freedom?
Ultimate freedom is doing the right thing, because by doing the right thing you are being the ultimate you. Often doing the right thing goes against "the rules." That is why asking the question

  • what is the right thing to do in this situation?

is more important than asking

  • what is legal or what are the rules in this situation?!

Those questions are important, but doing what is right -- what is God-directed -- is most important. It gives us a clear conscience -- the most freeing feeling in the world.

  • How do I want to spend my day?
    Listening. Enjoying the life God has in store for me.
  • Who am I, and what kind of person do I want to be?
    I want to be strong. I want to be bold. I want the wisdom to know when to follow the rules and when to break through the limitations of society. I want to be happy and have a sense of purpose. I want to see how I can grow, what I can do, and set goals for myself. I want to be a free person, to realize that freedom is not a condition of circumstance, but a condition of thought.
  • What direction do I want my life to go?
    "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). Think good, do good, and your life will head in a good direction.

And if you find that you have lost direction or are heading down a dark path, you can always look to God and listen. He will direct your path -- the path of freedom.

Moses Chooses to Listen to God

As you read this account from the King James Version of the Bible of the burning bush and God's message to Moses, notice:

  • Moses made a conscious, free decision to look at the bush.
  • Moses was afraid. Why do you think?
  • Moses constantly questioned God. Why was he asking questions?
  • Whenever Moses had a question, God had a perfect answer.
  • God loves His people tremendously.

Exodus 3:3-15
And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.