The Freedom of Captivity
We are all captives, or slaves, to something. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards commented that “we are free to choose but we are always a slave to our greatest desire.” In our modern world, we like to believe that we are totally free creatures but freedom is an illusion, of sorts. Certainly, we do have freedom but it is freedom within a defined space. And, that space is defined by the nature of our humanity. We have limits. For example, we are not free to exist without oxygen. That is a limit, or a boundary to our freedom. We have other limits and boundaries as well.
A fish is truly free when it is swimming in water. If a fish self-reflectively decided that being confined to water was a slavery that he no longer desired, he would not be truly free if he “freely” decided to leave the water. He would become enslaved to his inability to live outside the water. Indeed, his greatest freedom comes from choosing the right captivity.
As humans, we are most free and therefore “alive” when we choose the captivity the best corresponds with our design as humans. Many would suggest that being self-determined is what makes us most human. In fact, for those living in a “free” democratic society, this idea gets ingrained into our collective self-consciousness. As a result, we are often completely unaware that we even think this way. And so, even as we think about concepts like God, we often conceive of God in terms of our own making and liking.
However, clearly, we have limits as created beings. But, it can be so difficult to perceive this reality. If living within the confines of a relationship with God is our true nature (and that is my thesis!), then why it is often so difficult to live there?
C. S. Lewis once commented that it was perhaps easier for someone who lived under a dictatorship to understand the rule and reign of God in their lives than someone who lives in a democracy. Gary Moon and David Benner write that “Christian spiritual formation involves awaking from the dream that we are God and remembering our true identity, our ‘beloved-of-God-in-Christ’ identity, and then saying yes to the pain associated with the mortification of our false self.” So, is it our cultural bias that deceives us? Is it the pain the derails us? Certainly, these play a role in aiding and abetting the more fundamental issue: a bent toward self-determination that is hidden in each human heart. Romans 1:18-23 calls it futile thinking and foolish heartedness. However, also, plain to our heart is the reality that there is a God (Romans 1:20), an eternal realm (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and for the follower of Jesus, the indwelling of God in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17).
So, which captivity do we desire? Being captive to self-determination? Or, being captive to the indwelling Christ? It begins with desire and meditating upon the glory of living under His rule and reign. It progresses with identifying and releasing those old thought patterns and strategies based in self (self-protection, self-promotion, etc).
At a very basic level, I can ask myself the question: am I the owner of my life or is God? As I answer that question (each day throughout the day), I choose my captivity.