I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my children, now aged 20, 18, and 16, did not see the rules and regulations imposed upon them as they grew up as providing freedom. Like most kids, and even many adults, they saw the restrictions I placed upon them as enslaving them, as preventing them from their true ability to enjoy life which meant being “free” to pursue things they were sure would make them happy. Of course I believe that there will come a time when they will look back at the way they were raised and rejoice in the laws of our home. They will see (and maybe even with gratitude) that what my husband and I put in place actually provided them with a means to stay safe, make good decisions, and prosper in life.
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He, too, was providing a means for His people to be safe, make good decisions, and prosper in life. These were people who had been working in the overwhelming heat, making bricks, and living as slaves for hundreds of years when God heard their cries and responded. In the beginning, their Exodus was undoubtedly seen as a blessing. They had just been released from the direct experience of slavery; but as is often the case, what is originally seen as a good thing quickly loses its luster. Sure enough, God’s people were soon crying for the days of slavery, having quickly forgotten the dramatic way in which their loving Father brought them out of oppression and not grasping that the laws being imposed upon them were actually meant for their freedom and not their continued bondage.
For children this same loss of understanding happens when, as teenagers, they forget that the parents who provided a safe harbor and love and security to them as toddlers are, indeed, the same loving parents now creating household rules: same love exhibited in a new way. It is with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that parents watch over to their teen children, issuing a new set of rules that separate the toddler and pre-teen years from the teen years. These rules become guidelines that, when followed, allow children to journey out into life equipped for success. Contrary to teen interpretation, these guidelines, which are often met with disdain and even anger, are actually plans that will provide the foundation for safety and prosperity, peace and joy, happiness and well-being. Just as the Ten Commandments were God’s way of caring for His people, household rules are a parent’s way of caring for their children.
Interestingly, true freedom (i.e. happiness, joy, prosperity) only exists within rules or guidelines that have been set in place with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Real freedom doesn’t come from individual pursuits of self-gratification but from the collective pursuit of the common good. This is true for a home, for a people, and for a nation. Happiness does not arise out of material acquisitions but from a place deep within our hearts where we connect with our Creator. God gives us His laws because He understands where real contentment exists, He knows that we will waste time and energy pursuing things that distract us from our earthly purpose. He gave us these ways to live for our “own good.”
Our beloved America was fashioned in the same way. It was shaped by Christian forefathers displaying wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We were set up as a nation beholden to the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian faiths. The forefathers spoke of God-given, inalienable rights. Our forefathers believed in God and acknowledged Him. They planted seeds for future generations to live faith-filled lives, freely and without cause for concern. And they set up laws under which they knew man could prosper.
I know that our American history is riddled with injustices and wrongs that need to be righted and yet, on a recent trip to Washington D.C., I couldn’t help but realize the way in which God’s hand was upon these men. (As an aside…If your only trip to D.C. has been in eighth grade, or if you haven’t been there in awhile, I highly suggest taking the trip.)
We are an amazing nation, young and strong, owing much to our forefathers who understood that within the confines of laws, rules, and guidelines future Americans could find the sort of earthly happiness that was conducive to life as a Christian and as a nation “under God.”
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights aren’t meant to restrict happiness but to encourage it. When we bend those laws in such a way as to justify why pornography should be protected or abortion is a “choice” and not death to a baby, we are really only pushing our chance for real happiness further and further away. There is no freedom in that just as there is no real freedom for a teenager who parties all night and has no responsibilities to his family. Similarly, there would have been no freedom for God’s people to conduct themselves like their pagan neighbors. True freedom exists within a structure created on the premise that there is a greater good and that all must be contributors to it, not detractors from it.
In this, an election year, we hear candidates like Obama call out for change. And droves of people clamor for his message. But I have to wonder what we are really seeking when we call for change. After all, our nation has changed quite a bit in the last two hundred and thirty years. Are we better off for all the change? Have we gotten closer to heaven on earth with all of our changes? We’ve bent the laws, interpreted the constitution, and generally run amuck with our need for change; but again I ask: Are we better off as a country? Our nation is quickly changing the definition of marriage. Is that the change that will make us better? Is that the change that will make us free?
What changes are we so desperately seeking? I would suggest that the changes we need have originated from that place within ourselves that God created for His own indwelling: A place that, for many, has been filled with secular messages and yet remains unfulfilled. The change we clamor for might very well be the recognition that as we move, daily, towards ways in which our own agendas take precedence over God’s we are actually becoming less satisfied. We ought to be looking inward for changes to be taking place instead of believing someone outside of ourselves will provide what we need.
Indeed, we are a Christian nation and many of the changes we have sought and experienced have not made us a godlier nation, a vision I believe would have been at the heart of many of our founding fathers. So while we celebrate our nation’s independence today, let us remember that we are only truly free when we understand that the laws that run our nation are meant for our peace and prosperity and only enslave us when we use them to justify our collapse into sinful behavior. And if we really want change, we ought to turn, individually and as a nation, back to God because, as Scripture says, with God all things are possible. Maybe that’s the change that will make a difference. That’s the change that will set us free.