“Leave me alone; I need my freedom” is one of the persistent cries of teenage and young adulthood. The right to be left alone, free to choose for oneself, is considered very sacred to growing up. However, it takes years and sometimes even decades to realise that freedom alone may not guarantee true happiness and contentment.
Freedom without safety ropes is recklessness. We all love the wind against our faces, but we do acknowledge that it is unsafe to ride a two-wheeler without a safety helmet. We also appreciate safety devices like seat belts, pedestrian crossings and balustrades.
Freedom without consideration for one’s own dignity often leads to self-abasement. Addiction to drugs and alcohol tend to result in behaviour that degrades oneself. On the other hand, exercising freedom without recognising or valuing the dignity of others can lead to disrespect, high-handedness, abuse and even violence.
Freedom without purpose is aimlessness. People living in democratic societies value the right to think freely, to voice opinions, and to act freely. And deep inside, we know that all of this must contribute to a higher purpose – the full flourishing of life. Since the dawn of humanity, we have pursued myriad avenues, such as religion, to achieve such a sense of purpose.
Even with the best of intentions, freedom without nurture and structure is randomness. Like a neglected garden that quickly turns into a weed sanctuary or like buildings that fall into ruin when we stop maintaining them. Or like the mess that our own room becomes when we stop putting things back in their place! It may sound very harmless, but the effort to undo the effects of such neglect in weightier matters of life could be significant.
The Bible lays out a call to humanity that provides all the right ingredients to have purposeful freedom. God’s gift is a new dignified identity as his children, through faith in Jesus, and the safety of care from a kind, loving father. Like a good gardener who nurtures his garden to bring joy to everyone, God assures that he will help us through every step of our way. Be it well-being, sharing our daily worries or even our daily sustenance, the promise of the Almighty to those who love him is perfect peace and contentment. His call to us is to use our freedom to depend on him, so that we can love others and uplift people around us with the kindness and forgiveness that he imparts into our hearts. If such love itself could become the greatest driving purpose of human existence, which even teaches us to channel our freedom, wouldn’t the world simply become a better place?