Let’s be honest: who among us has ever rolled their eyes and yawned when words like “statutes” and “ordinances” are mentioned? At best, these rules might be seen as the necessary keepers of order in a busy and complex world. At worst, they are major annoyances that get in the way of our own “personal” freedoms.
But today’s reading from the Book of Deuteronomy speaks of God's statute, one that I believe reveals a much more authentic view of human freedom.
A graduate school professor of mine once completed a little social experiment with the teenagers at her church. She first asked them, “What is your definition of freedom?” Their responses varied a bit, but each of them focused on the idea that freedom = independence:
"Being able to do what you want . . . ."
"Not having to follow any rules . . . ."
But then she asked them, “When is the last time you felt truly free?” To which the teens replied in a very different vein:
"Spending time with family at Christmas . . . ."
"Having a really good conversation with a friend . . . ."
I love this little experiment because it reminds me of the contradiction that exists in our hearts. We believe on one hand that freedom means the ability to do as we please but on the other hand hold the tender belief that what makes us truly free is not striking out on a path of self-made independence but rather being bound to something—or someone—that is bigger than we are.
I think our culture pooh-poohs the idea of obeying God's statutes and ordinances. Though we might not care to admit it, even the holiest among us struggles with the desire within to "go our own way" and ignore the law of the Lord. It is a bit like turning a cruise ship to slowly recognize that the Lord inscribed the law on our hearts not for ill but for good. "Give heed," the First Reading says, "to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them," not just because "He told us so" and we are obligated to obey but rather, that we may live.
Readers, let's spend some time today reflecting on freedom. When is the last time you felt truly free? Can you find solace in the truth that our true joy comes not in being our own maker, but rather in finding the one Maker who seeks to place His joy in us, and make our joy complete?
What's freedom to you?
Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.