When it came to eating, I never had to worry about putting boundaries on what I ate. I ate—and never gained a pound! I never understood why that was a big deal until I got married. I have gained forty since 2010—the same year I married Caz.
As I write this I am in the process of watching my calories and am doing well to get to my ideal weight. What I am discovering is that as I eat right, avoid high calories, high fat, high sugar foods, and work out, I actually feel better. In the past months since I have been getting on track I have noticed a tremendous increase in my energy level—and my old clothes are starting to fit again.
I suppose some would say, why even bother with working out? Eat what you want and enjoy life. But I have found that there is actual freedom when I am living a healthy life, freedom in feeling good, freedom in more energy, freedom in keeping up with my children, and freedom in knowing I am not poisoning my body like I used to.
The most common definition of freedom in our culture is doing what we want, whenever we want. But is this truly freedom? Let’s play this out to its logical conclusion. My friend, Eric, once told me of his “freedom” to drink whenever he wanted. For ten years he drank, often hiding it from those he loved the most—his family, wife and kids. His addiction started spilling over into his personal and professional life, to the point that he had to enter a ten-month rehab program. I remember him telling me all about his “freedom”—sadly, it ended up more like bondage
Tim was a friend of mine in college. He hooked up with whomever he wanted, because he was “free” to do so. One night he even hooked up with multiple girls. Years after college, he confided in me saying that he and his then wife were having serious sexual issues in their marriage because of their past sexual experiences. Sadly, there are still things they cannot do together physically because of their past experiences. Was it truly “freedom”?
The kind of freedom that God has designed for all of us is starkly different than what our culture sees as freedom. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. We read in Genesis, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:16a –17b). The first words of freedom spoken were at the Garden of Eden, but how could freedom and constraint go hand in hand? How can even a hint of restriction be true freedom? Notice God said you are free to eat whatever you want. That is exactly freedom in terms of how our culture views it. But then God adds a restriction—except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now, that is beginning to sound less like freedom, and more like control.
Following this account to its logical conclusion, we see that Adam and Eve went against the freedom they were given. They felt God was holding something back from them; maybe they even felt there should be no limitations. So they ate—and the result? Shame. Embarrassment. Insecurities. Alienation.
Then when God came on the scene, they hid and blamed one another. Adam even blamed God.
Again, this does not sound like freedom to me.
As we process this idea of freedom as our culture has defined it and since it is embedded in our consciences, hopefully we are coming to a deep realization that this type of “freedom” is not really freedom at all. In fact, from the very beginning, the story we think as one that illustrates freedom, is actually the very opposite. Roger Olsen captures this beautifully when he observes, “It’s a story of shame, hiding, alienation, enmity, toil, and death—in short, the absolute antithesis of freedom.”
The reality is that we have a choice to make. On the one hand, we can follow our culture’s definition of freedom, doing what we want whenever we want. On the other hand, we can choose to follow God’s design for freedom, believing he is good and has our best in mind. Adam and Eve chose the former and changed everything.
In the fourth century AD, Saint Augustine taught that freedom was what we were created for noting that true freedom only comes when we conform to the image of God—Jesus Christ. “The farther we drift from it [that is who we were created to be], the more our freedom shrinks.”
One writer commenting on the fact that Adam and Eve had paradise—and they threw it away for bondage, because of their selfishness, makes this insightful comment:
“The implication of the Genesis story is unavoidable: True freedom is found only in obedience to God and the fellowship that comes with it. Loss of true freedom comes with self-assertion, the idolatrous desire to rule my own square inch of hell rather than enjoy the blessings of God’s favor…This gospel theme of true freedom through obedience and servanthood is so pervasive in the Bible that it cannot be missed. And yet, because of our culture’s overriding emphasis on autonomy, we miss it all the time.”
If you really want to live a fulfilled life–it is through obedience to God. He is the creator and we are his creation. When we obey and submit to God, we are living free and fulfilled lives—because that is how we were designed to live. This is not say that the going will not be tough. It is not to say that we will not struggle. Freedom can lead to difficult choices. It is here that we need to remember what Jesus said to the people of his day,Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (John 11:28–30)
When we choose to live in the way God has designed us, we experience freedom—true freedom. God does not provide boundaries to be a burden, but to be a gift. The boundaries are not there to hinder our freedom, but to enhance it—even to help us experience it more deeply. The choice is ours. Do we want to embrace what our culture says is freedom, but really nothing more than bondage? Or do we want to embrace the freedom that our creator offers us, one that leads to a life fully free, fully fulfilled?