God and true freedom

God and true freedom October 17, 2014

Only love can know love, only mercy can know mercy, only the endless mystery I am to myself is ready for God’s Infinite Mystery.

When I can stand in mystery (not knowing and not needing to know and being dazzled by such freedom), when I don’t need to split, to hate, to dismiss, to compartmentalize what I cannot explain or understand, when I can radically accept that “I am what I am what I am,” then I am beginning to stand in divine freedom (Galatians 5:1).

We do not know how to stand there on our own. Someone Else needs to sustain us in such a deep and spacious place. This is what the saints mean by our emptiness, our poverty and our nothingness. They are not being negative or self-effacing, but just utterly honest about their inner experience.

God alone can sustain me in knowing and accepting that I am not a saint, not at all perfect, not very loving at all—and in that very recognition I can fall into the perfect love of God.

Remember Jesus’ first beatitude: “How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). How amazing is that? I think this might just be the description of salvation and perfect freedom. They are the same, you know.

Richard Rohr

From Daily Meditation, October 17, 2014 [I reformatted the paragraphs]

Adapted from Adapted from Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox, disc 2
(CDMP3 download)

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Derek

    Nice morning (for me at least) meditation. May I share with you my meditation (read it slow, don’t rush it!)?

    “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

    Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” (2Thes. 2:13-17).
    No, I’m not trying to one-up you here, this was honestly what I was reading. =)

    • Al Cruise

      Your quoting the words of a man. Richard Rohr is quoting the words from God himself.

  • James

    Yes, I like the meditations of RR. He has a way of lifting us above the fray. Of course, he has the backing of the ‘church’ in ways some of us don’t. Yet, we too can “stand in the mystery” of divine freedom. That’s our default position as we battle it out on the ground.

  • This cries out for Jacques Ellul’s comments in The Subversion of Christianity:

        There is also another element that is intolerable for different reasons, namely, freedom. It is true that people claim to want freedom. In good faith attempts are made to set up political freedom. People also proclaim metaphysical freedom. They struggle to free slaves. They make liberty a supreme value. The loss of freedom by imprisonment is a punishment that is hard to bear. Liberty is cherished. How many crimes, too, are committed in its name? Impressive Greek myths tell the story of human freedom triumphing over the gods. In one interpretation of Genesis 3 Adam is praised as one who made a bold stroke for freedom, asserting his independence in face of a malignant, authoritarian, tormenting God who imposed prohibitions so as to prevent his child from doing wrong.
        Adam was bold enough to act as a free man before God, disobeying him and transgressing. In so doing he inaugurated human history, which is in truth, the history of freedom. How beautiful all this is! But this fervor, passion, desire, and teaching are all false. It is not true that people want to be free. They want the advantages of independence without the duties or difficulties of freedom.[5] Freedom is hard to live with. It is terrible. It is a venture. It devours and demands. It is a constant battle, for around us there are always traps to rob us of it. But in particular freedom itself allows us no rest. It requires incessant emulation and questioning. it presupposes alert attention, ruling out habit or institution. It demands that I be always fresh, always ready, never hiding behind precedents or past defeats. It brings breaks and conflicts. It yields to no constraint and exercises no constraint. For there is freedom only in permanent self-control and in love of neighbor.
        Love presupposes freedom and freedom expands only in love.[6] This is why de Sade is the supreme liar of the ages. What he showed and taught others is the way of slavery under he banner of freedom. Freedom can never exert power. There is full coincidence between weakness and freedom. Similarly, freedom can never mean possession. There is an exact coincidence between freedom and non possession. Freedom, then, is not merely a merry childish romp in a garden of flowers. It is this too, for it generates great waves of joy, but these cannot be separated from severe asceticism, conflict, and the absence of arms and conquests. This is why those who suddenly find themselves in a situation of freedom lose their heads or soon want to return to bondage. (166–167)

    [5] The only basic books on freedom are those by B. Charbonneau, especially Je fus (1980) [6] See J. Ellul, Éthique de la liberté, 2 vols. (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1973, 1975); ET Ethics of Freedom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976)

        An ancient story: Exodus tells us several times that when the Hebrew people were delivered from bondage in Egypt, when faced with the problems of living in freedom they wanted to go back. They had no reserve provisions. The way was uncertain. The future was unknown. The strange will of their Liberator God was incomprehensible. Better slavery with a guaranteed minimum wage! The experience has often been repeated. On at least two occasions in the course of history we have seen the reaction of slaves who have been freed suddenly and are afraid of their freed. During the American Civil War, when the North had proclaimed the liberation of Southern slaves, many testimonies show us that the slaves were not happy and relaxed, but timorous and trembling, many of them going back to their old masters to resume their former place. The same happened when Italy, victorious in Ethiopia, proclaimed the liberty of those whom the tribes had traditionally enslaved. These slaves quickly joined the lowest ranks of the proletariat and wandered about hungry, missing their former state. We can understand this. Slaves have no liberty. They are subject to the whims of their owners (although these are generally much less cruel and ferocious than democratic propaganda depicts). In exchange they are fed, lodged, and supported. They are sure of their food. Above all, they are freed from having to take charge of their own lives, which is worse than obeying someone else.
        What people want when they talk about freedom is not being subject to others, being able to have their own dreams or go where they want to go. Hardly more. They definitely do not want to have to take charge of their own lives and be responsible for what they do. This means that they do not really want freedom. We have a new and explosive example of this today. It is not true at all that the French really want freedom. Primarily they want comfort and security in every area: police security, safety on the roads, security from sickness, unemployment, loneliness, and old age, security from children (for birth control really belongs to the area of security rather than to that of freedom). All this in exchange for freedom. In effect freedom can give us everything except security by demanding that we be. Security is always inevitably bought at the cost of freedom no matter whether it be granted by a private master, by an insurance company (a capitalist power), by an organism like Social Security (which through its information network becomes a general and total controlling agent), or by the state, which enlarges and bureaucratizes itself through the various forms of protection that we ask from it (e.g., in the case of natural disasters). (167–168)