The wild berries are at it again.
Invading my flower bed with a vigor and vengeance this 48-year-old body can’t begin to compete with. They defy me with their thorns because I can’t just reach down and pull them up by the roots, dandelion-style. Never mind that anyway–even minus the pain, those roots go deep. Later today I think I’ll try the shovel.
A few years ago I moved them there.
I thought it was okay at the time — transplanting them from a shady spot to a sunny bed where they could thrive, produce some actual fruit.Problem is, the fruit is sparse and mediocre at best. And not really worth the problem of the thorns. Even the birds don’t bother.
But those vines — gah! They are kudzu-like in their tenacity. Wild and gone mad with little to no decent fruit at all.
Some would call it freedom. I might have once. I wanted a quick filler for a barren patch of soil.
I got more than I bargained for.
How Freedom Grows
Last Sunday we studied Galatians 5 and it’s all about freedom. Freedom in Christ and what that really means.
Paul first talks about the yoke of slavery that comes from following a regimented, rules-oriented system to the letter. We tend to get so focused on the doctrine that we forget the spirit behind it.
The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.” Galatians 5:2-3 MSG
But then he goes on to describe what happens when we go too far the other way. Which we also tend to do.
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” Galatians 5:13
How freedom grows.
That phrase sticks hard and I remember those stupid vines, run amok and completely oblivious to the other plants (and, let’s face it, weeds) wanting to grow alongside. The berries don’t care.
- They want it all.
- They see no boundaries.
- They send their runners deep into the soil and new shoots poke up in the grass, yards away.
- The berries want to rule the world.
That’s not freedom.
For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.” Galatians 5:17 MSG
What Freedom Isn’t
We all know people like that, don’t we?
- They preach a good word and remind us frequently of their call to holiness.
- They paint on their “good girl” smiles and proceed to run you right over.
- They’re so focused on self that they don’t see you trying to grow and thrive right there beside them. Because they live in the bubble that is “berry-world” and you happen to be in their way. Too bad for you.
Gosh. Sometimes I’m that person.
But again — not freedom.
Paul says it right here, but it’s easy to miss when we’re busy sending out fruitless shoots all over the yard:
Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:13-14 MSG
Know what that means?
It means sometimes freedom doesn’t look the way we think it should.
In fact, true freedom in Christ looks more like servanthood. It looks more like boundaries and limits and denial.
Food Freedom, Life Freedom
I’m going to become a professional dieter, I think.
In my apparently vain attempt to shed my middle-aged excess poundage, I’ve tried multiple. . .um. . . let’s call them “eating plans.” I started on January 2nd. I’ve lost a whopping six pounds — what I used to drop in a week back in my 30s.
So for a couple of weeks I decided to give myself some leeway, a little more “freedom,” choosing to go ahead and eat some bread, maybe a little sugar — in moderation.
I didn’t overindulge. This time. But I sure started wanting to.
It takes a good month at least for me to kick sugar cravings, but only a couple of days to invite them back in full-throttle.
For those two weeks of “freedom,” I lingered at the edge of a slippery slope, dangerously close to falling headlong into the sugar-monster’s lair.
This time I managed to step back from the edge. I’m back — for now — to eating mostly paleo.
And you wouldn’t think it, but when I eat this way, when I set boundaries and limits and impose complete abstinence on certain foods — I feel so much more free.
My body works better and I don’t constantly worry about my tendency to overindulge. I just eat the acceptable foods and go on about my business. I eat when I’m hungry and I’m free to live the rest of my life without that nagging worry that carbs will devour me. It’s what author Melissa Hartwig calls “food freedom.”
It’s a lot like life freedom. Freedom in Christ.
Freedom in Christ
Because freedom in Christ is serving one another in love.
That’s how freedom grows.
Freedom means stepping back from the edge and reexamining your thoughts, your words, your actions. It sometimes mean staying silent when the “false freedom dragon” insists you have a right to be heard. Other times it means speaking up when the world tells you you don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
It means opening your eyes to notice others growing alongside you. It means putting forth the effort to help them flourish — maybe even at your own expense — instead of smothering everyone and everything in your path.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1 NIV
And freedom never means running ramrod over anybody else. Never.
Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.” Galatians 5:24 MSG
Crucified. Pretty strong word, huh?
So about those berry vines. . .
I’m heading out to get the shovel. It’s crucifixion time.
Oh, hey. . . if you’re interested in “Food Freedom Forever,” check out Melissa Hartwig’s fantastic book by that name. It’s awesome.