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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Am I Free or Just Loose?

Posted by admin in March 3rd, 2011
Published in freedom, obedience

Annie Dillard makes a very interesting distinction between freedom and just being loose in her book An American Childhood. Daryl is reading this book to me as part of our evening ritual. Dillard’s phrase, (used to describe her father that quit his job to travel the river), keeps rolling around in my head, “He wasn’t free so much as loose.”

So I have to ask, what’s the difference between free and loose? I think it’s a very important question. It makes me think of the Chinese legend about the Jealous Empress and the Favored Concubine.

The Empress hated the Concubine because she was the Emperor’s favorite. The Concubine was always happy and singing and she was a beautiful dancer. Every night the Emperor would ask the Concubine to dance and sing for him. She was doted on by all of the Palace because she was pleasant and kind and happy and beautiful. The Empress was beautiful too, and of excellent royal breeding, but people didn’t dote on her. So in a fit of jealousy and anger she had the Concubine kidnapped and hidden away in a prison-like fortress many days’ journey from the Capital. On occasion the Empress would secretly venture out to visit the Concubine, but she would always find her singing and she noticed that the guards and keepers had become tender-hearted toward their charge. Here in the prison the Concubine was once again doted on and loved. This enraged the Empress and she commanded all the personnel to ignore the Concubine and not to speak to her. She hired spies to insure that the Concubine was kept in total isolation. But even then, when the Empress would go to check on the Concubine, she found the woman happy, pleasant and always singing. The jealousy and anger so ate away at the Empress that she cruelly ordered the beautiful Concubine to have her arms and legs removed and her torso placed in a plain clay jar. Once the horrible deed had been performed, the Empress could not restrain herself but had to see the Concubine. The Empress was certain she would find the Concubine fearful, grief stricken and miserable, but instead she found the Concubine jarred up, her head the only thing exposed, singing more beautifully and sweetly than ever. The Empress flew into an outrage. She shouted at the jarred Concubine, “How can you sing? How can you be happy? I’ve cut off your arms and legs and you are in a jar! You are imprisoned and bound. Your freedom is forever gone! Your beauty is forever gone! Your life is over! How can you sing?” And the Concubine replied, “Which of us is imprisoned? Your anger and jealousy have made much more of a prisoner out of you than me.”

One was free and the other was just loose.

Scripture tells us that “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” Jesus told the woman who was bent over with an infirmity, “Woman thou art loosed…” (Luke 13, KJV). TD Jakes wrote a book by that title. Here I guess free and loose are synonyms. But in everyday English I think there’s a difference. A very big difference. One is a state of mind; the other a state of being.

Freedom is a funny thing. Some theologians believe we can be free from sin. I’ve yet to experience that here on earth (nor have I met anyone who is really free from sinning).

We talk a lot about freedom in America—Freedom Fighters, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Young Americans for Freedom, Freedom of Information Act. Yup, we like our freedom.

But what does it mean to be free? Can we be free without responsibility? Is freedom a mindset, or is it a condition? Maybe a little of both. I know for me personally it’s not permanent. I can be free one day and in total bondage the next. I refer to bondage as addictions, unforgiveness, memories we can’t get rid of, attitudes and habits we just can’t seem to change. I think freedom is more of a state of mind than a state of being. I’ve been to churches in countries where the government took away individual freedoms—no human rights—and yet the congregation was freer than any I’ve ever seen here in the States.

Freedom is a choice we make. A choice to forgive. A choice to forget. A choice to do the right thing and those choices sometimes must come daily. Freedom isn’t as much about where I am as who I am. Freedom isn’t about governments or human rights or the ability to come and go as I please. Freedom is about doing the right thing even when it’s hard; freedom is about making choices that are hard and complex and often costly. Freedom is about dying to the flesh and the old carnal nature. It’s about decreasing that Christ might increase. It’s about giving over control to the Holy Spirit and asking Him to sanctify me, purify me and to search my heart. This kind of freedom makes me think of Jesus’ words when He is quoting Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18).

And even though it’s hard and perhaps complicated I do want to be free–really free and not just loose. Peace.

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470. Brian B said,
March 4th, 2011 at 7:27 am

Teri – I love the Chinese legend story! Great! Freedom is definitely a state of mind. It “is about doing the right thing even when it’s hard; freedom is about making choices that are hard and complex and often costly. Freedom is about dying to the flesh and the old carnal nature.”

When I was teaching in Russia I had a fellow professor ask “freedom… what is real freedom?” He had just come through the communist period and was still a card-carrying communist. He was extremely skeptical as to what freedom was. His perception was closer to the “loose” version where anything goes and people could do what they want. That is not real freedom.

Thanks for this insightful blog!

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471. cherijo15 said,
March 4th, 2011 at 9:10 am

Hi Terri,
Great words today. I think I needed to hear that! I hope you are recovering well. Miss all you guys! -Cheri

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472. noeldhorton said,
March 5th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Teri, great blog. I posted a link on my Facebook page and received the following quote from a dear friend (C.A. Post). Thought you might appreciate it: ‎”A ‘free’ violin string can ‘be’ anything it wants to be except what its ‘supposed’ to be. Only when constrained by the pegs and the bridge of the violin can it be what it was intended to be and freely make beautiful music.” Steve Elliot

~Noel

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