Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Freedom To Love

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9

Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire. Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else. Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly. – Epictetus

If we were to take a look around the landscape of our lives we would see that it is filled with friends and acquaintances with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. Some of us struggle with our diet while others always seem to be fit. Some of us struggle with selfishness while others seem to have a natural balance between charity and self respect. Some of us struggle with lust and fidelity while others do not seem to be moved at all by the advances of others.

I think we know more about the next person’s struggle than we realize but we often try to ignore it. We try our best not to let the hardships of others affect us while at the same time we welcome the strengths of others to enrich us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I have done this in the past. Why am I always on the look out for the things that people around me do well and not looking for how they stumble?

I know that at least part of it at various times has been that I really don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to assume any responsibility for anyone else but me.

You might be wondering “what the heck is he talking about”. What is he getting at?”

Here’s my point.

I believe that when we truly care about those around us we naturally take them into consideration. This is why we like to share our strengths with our loved ones. We hope that our strengths can help those around us live better lives. But when it comes to weaknesses, there is something different at work. When we see that someone is weak with something that we don’t struggle with how should that affect our behavior? Should we change our actions to accommodate their struggle?

Here’s an example.

Let’s say that you have a friend who has problem with their weight and has made a commitment to improving their health. You two have decided to go to the movies but the next showing is in an hour. There isn’t enough time for you to go out to eat but you are starving. So, you pick something up on the way over to his house. You’ll eat it there, and then head to the flic. But there is a problem; you are craving McDonalds. And oh buddy does your friend love them crack fries.

What do you do?

I’m not saying that you have to dismiss your cravings but it is something to think about. How loving are you being to this friend if you show up to his house feasting on the remnants of a super sized meal? Sure you can eat that food on occasion because you are in good shape. It is permissible for you in light of your lifestyle. But what will it do to your friend. How will he feel after having just eaten a salad that he only marginally enjoyed? Maybe he will break his diet and head for them golden arches tomorrow…

The more loving thing to do would be to choose a meal for yourself that would be in line with you friend’s goals.

This may sound like I am suggesting that we always have to live for others. Quite the contrary! We cannot let anyone or anything besides God dictate how we live our lives. But what does it say about us if we cannot delay gratification to support a friend? Are we truly free? Do we really have control of ourselves? What does love really mean for us?

One of the important lessons I have learned with this season of fasting is the true meaning of freedom. I have learned, as one who strives to live from a place of love, that being truly free is having the ability to show love in the best way possible in every single moment. This requires that we step outside of the mirage of our desires and look at our lives from a more objective point of view.

For me it means transitioning from being more self-centered to being more-God centered; more focused on spreading the love that I have in my heart.

I have a LONG way to go in this but that’s cool. Life isn’t a sprint anyway. It’s a marathon.  

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