The Sweet Smell of Freedom Re-visited

Gas Mask
Tahrir Square Graffiti – A fight for freedom

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?

Waking up to the Smell of Freedom

I woke up this morning to the strong smell of coffee freedom. Freedom was all around me. A light rain fell outside but inside was dry, light and safe. As I stretched in bed with my eyes becoming accustomed to being open and my body slowly waking up, I realized the day was ahead of me and full of possibilities. I could choose to go back to sleep, or get up and write. I could choose to drink coffee or tea, black or with cream. I could choose English muffins, or cereal; eggs or not. I smelled freedom in all my activities and in all my choices from big to small.

Across oceans and country borders in the country of Iran is a man who is facing execution for his faith. Based on a ruling from the Iranian Supreme Court, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian, is accused of apostasy. He was given three opportunities to renounce his faith and would not do so, because for him “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. Even as there is no freedom for him to express a faith in anything other than the state mandated religious system, he has chosen his faith above all. He wakes up to a smell of filth in a jail cell, not to the smell of freedom, yet he knows, far better than I, that true freedom comes in knowing God.

There is international pressure to release Pastor Nadarkhani. Outspoken condemnation of the Iranian government is being voiced by various governments and groups around the globe with the hope that the ruling will be changed. But even then, changed to what? To release and full freedom or to lifelong imprisonment that includes torture and mistreatment. So even as I experience my freedom today, my heart longs for this universal right to be extended to all people, my heart aches to see the release of Pastor Nadarkhani.

As I drink my coffee along with tasting my freedom, I choose to be aware and to pray for this man, his family, his children and his country.