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The One Who Daily Leads Us Into Freedom

“In this world, we’re always both free and unfree,” my spiritual director said to me several years ago. Her statement came to mind again last week, offering comfort in an hour of experiencing the interplay between the two in myself.

Spring drizzle sifted between budding branches as I walked in a quiet neighborhood, savoring the cool, spring air. Crocuses peeked up through the grass, and ferns grew out of the chinks in old stone walls.

Along one stretch where ivy grew thick in the shadow of a wall, I noticed a candy wrapper half-buried under the leaves. A little farther along, a rain-soaked piece of plastic wrap, then a cigarette butt. Usually, I confess, I would have turned my eyes elsewhere and just kept walking. But this time I’d just dropped some books at the little free library and still had in my pocket the thin plastic bag I’d used to protect them from the rain. And I’d been so enjoying the beauty of God’s world that a desire to partner with him in caring for it conquered my lazy desire to ignore the litter and keep walking.

In those moments of stooping and using the bag as a glove to scoop up the garbage, I felt free and full of joy. Free to delight in God and his creation, free to participate with him in a small act of love, free to do it with joy.

But a few moments later, the balance shifted and I was no longer free. My bag was half-full and I’d had enough. I wanted to enjoy the last of my walk home and get on with the rest of my day. But I couldn’t stop seeing the papers calling out to be picked up. I could no longer either pick them up without resentment or walk past them without guilt.

A lady and her small dog walked a block behind me, and a man with his large one passed on the street I’d just crossed. I could hear barking behind me, and a voice, as I paused to pick up a discarded business card and another scrap of paper.

“Lady with the umbrella,” the man’s voice called. I turned, finally realizing it was me he had been addressing, not the other dog owner. “Thanks for picking up the garbage. That’s really kind. I’m heading straight to a trash can.” He held up a poop bag tied in a firm knot. “Would you like me to throw that out for you?” He nodded at my bag.

On one level, our interaction was merely (but importantly!) one neighbor extending kindness to another, perhaps one small act of generosity inspiring another.

But as I thanked him with a smile and handed him my bag, I felt like God was smiling down on me, assuring me that he had delighted in our moments of caring together for his creation, and was delighting in me no less as we walked home in rest together.

“It is for freedom Christ has set you free,” Paul says in Gal 3:1. “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Choosing the freedom of life and love is a life-long journey. But this same Jesus who died to free us to receive his love and love him back continues to walk each day with us, helping us step more and more fully into the joy of living free in his love.


Where in this day have you lived free in Christ’s love? Is there a place you’re aware of being unfree? What would it be like to take a few minutes, maybe even right now, to talk with Jesus about how he sees you both in your freedom and your unfreedom?


P.S. (Please ignore this P.S. if you have no trouble with decisions or discernment.) One of the places I notice my unfreedom most is when I’m trying to discern the way forward. Worries and shoulds and fears of what others might think can tie me in knots and keep me from listening well either to my own deep desires or to God as he comes to me in other ways.

If you’re like me in that, you might be interested in Emily P. Freeman’s new book, How To Walk Into a Room: The Art of Knowing When to Stay and When to Walk Away. So far I’ve only had access to the Introduction and Chapter 1,
and I can’t wait to receive my pre-ordered copy. I don’t usually mention books here until I’ve read a good deal more of them than the first chapter, but I mention this now for two reasons: 1) I’ve been reading Emily’s books and blog posts and listening to her Next Right Thing podcast for years and so far have always found her a wise and trustworthy guide, and 2) her new book launches Tuesday, March 12th and there are a couple of free gifts you can only get if you pre-order your book and claim the gifts by Friday, March 15th. I’ve been so enjoying listening to Emily speak blessings over me for various different hellos and goodbyes (that’s one of the free gifts) that I wanted to let you know about the book in time for you to get the gifts too if you’re interested.

Here’s a link where you can read more about the book and claim your free gifts. Here’s a blog post where Emily shares about her decision to leave the company she helped start. And tomorrow (Tuesday) you can hear her read the introduction to her book on her Next Right Thing podcast.


Photo by Ben Griffiths on Unsplash

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Diana Kilgour

    Carolyn, I loved this! I’m reminded of the pleasure of picking up litter and mind that I’m no longer able to but am so pleased to have your company in loving God’s creation in this practical way. Do you notice in your travels that cigarette detritus and chewing gum are less than they used to be? High five to you and all who care for our world in these big/ little ways!

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