Timshel

Already, I’m a day off schedule. But this is simply the way things go sometimes. NaBloPoMo is underway, so let’s begin changing that perspective and all agree that my tardiness means that when I refer to yesterday I’m actually referring to two days ago. So now that you’re confused . . .

Yesterday I was checking my Facebook for probably the tenth time (and it wasn’t yet noon) and as I scrolled through my feed came across a post by one of my Facebook acquaintances. Intrigued by the thumbnail photo of a very happy woman with flowers in her hair, I clicked on the link. I was taken to a page that asked me if I was, “Ready to be truly happy, free, and alive?” in fun typography with more images of happy, beautiful, skinny women.

As I read further, I was drawn in by the promises that a three week online motivational program had to offer. My soul would be fed, I would finally be happy, I would be free of my emptiness and depression in just 21 DAYS!!

Now, if I actually sat down with the woman that worked so hard to create this program, it probably wouldn’t sound quite this ridiculous, in fact, there probably is a certain amount of merit to it. But after I accidentally on purpose signed up for the program (to see what it really was all about) I began to feel like this idea of freedom was being sensationalized. Feeling uncomfortable, about 15 minutes after signing up, I unsubscribed (I also wanted the wave emails to stop).

This concept of freedom is one that I have thought more and more about in the months since graduating from college and getting engaged. As a white, American 20-something living in one of the country’s biggest cities, my view of practical freedom is pretty narrow, in that I take it for granted. This is not the same freedom that came to mind when reading about this 21 day program.

The 21 day challenge that was on this website addressed not our civil freedom but our mental and spiritual freedom. Freedom of the soul.

This very notion is seen throughout the New Testament. Jesus spells it out in John’s Gospel and tells the Jews that if they truly believed him and what he said, they would know the truth, which would set them free. Free from what? He goes on to explain that sin holds us captive and that only He can free us from that.

“So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed,” he says (John 8:36).

Indeed.

Freedom of the soul comes in point of fact from the Son of God.

However, hearing and believing the truth of Christ and accepting the freedom from sin that comes from that truth isn’t the only gift of freedom that we’re promised in scripture.

I recently finished listening to the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck* in my car. Steinbeck uses the story of Cain and Abel to frame the narrative of the novel. In one scene in particular Steinbeck uses his beautifully developed characters to dissect the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4. The conversation between the characters rests finally on one Hebrew word found in the original text, “Timshel.” The word translates to, “Thou mayest.” The verse it comes from is Genesis 4:7, which reads in the NIV translation, ” . . . sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Steinbeck emphasizes the poor translation into English that most versions have for this verse. He argues that it should read, ” . . . but you may rule over it.”

Thou mayest. We have the freedom to choose.

Steinbeck goes on to say (through his characters) that humans have a choice between good and evil. I think that John was almost there, but didn’t quite hit the mark, as he was missing Jesus in the conversation.

God gives EVERY human the option of the free gift of grace through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. From the time we are born we are faced with the choice between Christ and ourselves, good and evil. We are born sinners, but we are sinners with the freedom to choose to not be captive by the evil that is born in us. We are given a gift from the time we enter the world.

This gift of freedom does not stop there and takes so many forms. We first have this freedom to choose Jesus or not, and then in relationship with Him we find freedom from sin, and still after that freedom from the evil things that latch onto us like leaches. Freedom from depression and dissatisfaction with life, a soul that is fed. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the spiritual freedom that abounds in relationship with Christ. John Steinbeck wrote one of the best canonical works and wasn’t even able to make a dent in the depth of that beautiful truth.

Freedom of the soul is complex, but it is so much easier to attain than going through a 21 program, which is good, considering that I didn’t want to read the emails. Freedom of the soul  begins with our freedom to choose, both coming from the Father.

And because of Him, we are free indeed.

*If you have not read East of Eden yet, I’d encourage you to find a copy and read it immediately. And if you already have read it, go ahead and read it again. I probably will soon. But seriously, do it. Go.

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