On an October weekend over a year and a half ago I wrote a post I called “Waking Up to the Sweet Smell of Freedom”. I remember well the day I wrote it. It was a holiday weekend and as I woke up to the strong smell of good coffee, I realized in an instant how different my life was from so many in the world that day. While this is not a new realization for me, it is a welcome reminder. Specifically, that post was about the pastor in Iran who was imprisoned at the time – Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Since that time he was freed, rearrested, and is now free again.
Today is Memorial Day in the United States and I am revisiting this sweet smell of freedom. It is the day set aside to honor military men and women who have fought for this country. As someone who was not raised here and struggles with nationalism I struggle with a day like today. I am tremendously grateful for those who serve. And I recognize that the freedom I wake to has a cost. The struggle comes as I think of what this country has done with freedom and the way we have warped the definition.
And today again I wake to the sweet smell of freedom. I wake to the awareness that I am a privileged person in a country of privilege. I also wake to a world with a warped sense of what freedom means. We have changed the definition of freedom in the west to mean no boundaries, no barriers, ability to do whatever we want, when we want – this is not freedom, as someone like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani would likely tell us. The west is obsessed with freedom, with right to choose, with ‘self’ – yet I don’t see evidence of freedom in those around me. Most are bound by the angst that this definition of freedom brings about.
Our suicide rate has become a societal epidemic – yet we call ourselves free.
Our churches fight and argue and call each other by names both online and in person – yet we call ourselves free.
The national debt is to the sky in many western countries – yet we call ourselves free.
Our personal debt in both school loans and life spending continues to be a crisis and bind us to jobs we abhor – yet we call ourselves free.
Because freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want. I can’t help thinking of the CS Lewis quote as I think about freedom as it is practiced today in my passport country – “The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded.”
And so I wake – I wake to the smell and taste of freedom and the challenge of figuring out what this really means.
What does it mean to you? How do you define freedom? How do those in the country where you live define freedom?