Here in the United States, we hear a great deal of talk about independence and freedom this weekend, the 4th of July. I find myself wondering if independence is a quality of Spirit. Recognizing that what we celebrate as a nation is an historical political autonomy, I ponder how the “spirit of independence” oozes into our personal ways of seeing the world, our relationships and even our lives with the Holy. I cherish the idea of freedom: political, personal and spiritual. I love the Christian scriptures invitations to live in freedom:
- “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
- “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3: 17b
- “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8: 36
I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude at times when I reflect on the increase of spiritual freedom to which I have been led into over the years of my pilgrimage: by open-hearted exemplars of faith, by increased understanding of sacred text, by unfolding of theologies that have shed more illumination on my path. I revel in the spaciousness that has come with a deeper and wider comprehension and imagination of the Mystery we call God, the One in Whom I live and move and have my being. And I am pointedly reminded daily of the political freedom I enjoy as a citizen of the United States, especially when I watch the unfolding of the news of the world.
But my freedom has not made me more independent. In fact, it has served to allow me, even challenge me, to be more connected. Along with my freedom to be who I am and am becoming in God, I am at the same time increasingly required to be joined to and conscious of the world God made and all that lives in it. So how does that work, the freedom and the responsibility? Hm!
On this national holiday under the umbrella of a spiritual freedom, I ask myself what a person of freedom would look like. Surprisingly, the person who springs into my awareness is the woman described in Proverbs 31, not usually known for its commentary of freesdom. But listen:
- the heart of her partner trusts in her; she does him good, not evil
- she provides foods and task for her community
- she opens her hands to the poor and reaches out to the needy
- she takes care of that which is given to her–property, people, opportunity
- strength and dignity are her clothing
- she laughs at the time to come
- she opens her mouth with wisdom and kindness
- she cares for those in her care, and they see that she is happy
No passive spiritual freedom here, she incarnates the intelligence, imagination, energy and love that should characterize all of us as we live as people in relationships, in communities, in neighborhoods, in nations, in the world that God loves. This Fourth of July, I would like to be like her!