Ask any prisoners freed from jail and they will tell you that some of their most vulnerable days were immediately following their release. They were “free,” but free for what?
Similarly, we are a people who crave to be “free.” I grew up in the generation that made “freedom” a cardinal virtue, but many in that generation fell prey to all sorts of addictions and disorders. We were “free,” but without any idea of what it meant to be free.
When we speak of freedom in the spiritual life we mean the liberty (made possible by grace) to do God’s will. The original sin (egotism) made us “fast bound in sin and nature’s night” (as Charles Wesley put it), leaving us slaves to our own self-centeredness.
But Christ has set us free! We are no longer “bound” to sin (that is to do the bidding of the False Self). We are now free to fully pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and to see ourselves as participants in that prayer!
This freedom is not a once-for-all experience. It is more nearly a moment-by-moment choice—a choice that repeatedly throws us upon the power of grace to actually “do” what we say. Words become realities, not just posturings. Our convictions have substance, not just image. We are, in fact,—inwardly and outwardly—what we profess to be.
De Waal calls this freedom “the willing obedience which says, ‘Yes’ with our whole person to the infinite love of God, so that outward observance springs from inward assent, a bending of our free will toward the will of Christ, which will finally make us collaborators with him” (p. 50)
This is what the psalmist meant when writing, “I will run the way of thy commandments when thou hast set my heart at liberty” (119:32). We are free to be the people God has had in mind for us to be all along!