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“For whom the Son sets free, is free INDEED.”- John 8:36

Freedom is illusory for many. Day in and day out we say that we are living when in fact we are subconsciously and repetitively responding to a routine or regiment, a system of behavioral responses so that we can make it through the day. In fact, did you know that according to CareerBuilder (2019), nearly 78% of American workers were living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, as I am finishing up a phenomenal book by Hal Elrod entitled The Miracle Morning, he shares a startling quote that reshaped my thoughts about freedom and bondage:

“According to the Social Security Administration, if you take any 100 people at the start of their working careers and follow them for the next 40 years until they reach retirement age, here’s what you’ll find: only 1 will be wealthy; 4 will be financially secure; 5 will continue working, not because they want to but because they have to; 36 will be dead; and 54 will be broke and dependent on friends, family, relatives, and the government to take care of them” (Elrod, 2016).

Re-read this one more time…pause…reflect. I know what you are thinking, and you are exactly right! Many of us have at one point in our lives and careers have felt enslaved. Enslaved to what you may ask? For some, it may be your credit cards, home bills.. and for others it can be the expectation of others, people pleasing, stress, and other unhealthy obsessions. It is important that we, individually explore our thoughts and behaviors with this question in mind… “Are we truly free?”

Freedom is defined by some as the state or condition of being free from external restraints, limitations, or coercion. External restraints include those things that seek to control our thoughts, time, focus, energy, and resources. Freedom examines these external restraints encompassing the ability to exercise personal autonomy, make choices, and pursue one's desires without undue interference from others or oppressive systems.

But freedom doesn’t face external restraints solely, it is a multifaceted concept that encompasses various aspects of individual and collective existence. Broadly speaking, freedom involves the absence of external or internal forces or restrictions that impede personal autonomy and the ability to make choices and pursue one's desires. In today’s productivity driven world, many individuals face far more internal wars, which leave them trapped in unhealthy thought and behavioral patterns. Take self-talk for example, there are many who engage in more self-criticism than the experience in external relationships. Our thought life is extremely important and in order to experience freedom we must remember to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose - and commit myself to - what is best for me." - Paulo Coelho

At its core, freedom entails the capacity to act and think independently, without undue interference or control from others. It encompasses the freedom of thought, expression, and conscience, allowing individuals to hold and communicate their beliefs, opinions, and ideas without fear of censorship or persecution. Moreover, freedom extends beyond the realm of individual rights and encompasses social, economic, and political dimensions. Social freedom entails the absence of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression, enabling equal opportunities and treatment for all members of society. Freedom is not absolute and must be balanced with responsibilities and considerations for the well-being and rights of others. It should not be used as a pretext for harm, violence, or infringing upon the freedoms and rights of others. In essence, freedom is a fundamental and cherished value that encompasses personal autonomy, individual rights, social equality, and the ability to make choices and live according to one's own values and aspirations, within the boundaries of a just and inclusive society.

Can you imagine spending your entire life working to obtain wealth only to have poor health in your later years that impacts your physical, mental, emotional freedom, and financial freedom. When we consider freedom, we must look beyond finances and understand that finances are only tools to help us experience freedom. While in my community, daily I experience individuals who have physical freedom but are bound mentally and emotionally. I have met CEO’s who are climbing the corporate ladder but suffer with relational and social freedom. Freedom requires a delicate interplay of divine revelation, self- evaluation, and growth focused decisions that lead to a balanced heart centered journey.

So how can we live more freely? This question has a myriad of answers and will differ based on who you ask. But it begins by taking an authentic evaluation of the opposite of freedom which is bondage or oppression. Bondage refers to a state of being physically or metaphorically bound, restricted, or enslaved. Oppression refers to the exercise of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner, limiting or denying individuals' rights and autonomy. It involves the imposition of constraints, restrictions, or control over people's actions, choices, and ability to live according to their own will.

Rumi makes this assertion; "you were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly." This quote from Rumi emphasizes the inherent strength and potential within each of us. It encourages us to rise above oppression, to tap into our inner power, connect with the divine strength of God (Yahuah) our creator, and to embrace our true essence.

The opposite of freedom is a state where individuals are subjugated, restrained, or deprived of their inherent rights and liberties whether its’ origin is internal or external. It represents a condition where people are unable to exercise personal autonomy, make choices, express themselves freely, or pursue their goals and desires without undue interference or control.

There are various types of bondage, to which I included a few below.:

1. Physical Bondage: This type of bondage involves the physical restraint or confinement of an individual. It can include being tied up, shackled, or imprisoned, where freedom of movement is limited or taken away. Physical bondage can also result from medical illness that limits mobility such as a stroke, or neurological condition.

2. Emotional Bondage: Emotional bondage refers to being trapped in negative or unhealthy emotional patterns or relationships. It can involve feeling controlled, manipulated, or emotionally dependent on someone or something, inhibiting personal growth and well-being.

3. Psychological Bondage: Psychological bondage is characterized by mental or cognitive constraints that limit an individual's thoughts, beliefs, or perceptions. It can result from oppressive social conditioning, symptoms of mental illness, stress, and trauma that restricts independent thinking or self-expression.

4. Financial Bondage: Financial bondage occurs when a person is trapped in economic or financial constraints that limit their choices and freedom. It can include situations such as overwhelming debt, poverty, or dependence on others for financial support.

5. Social Bondage: Social bondage refers to the imposition of societal norms, expectations, or prejudices that restrict an individual's freedom and autonomy. It can manifest through social pressures, discrimination, or marginalization based on factors such as culture/race, gender, religion, or social class.

6. Spiritual Bondage: Spiritual bondage involves being constrained or controlled by religious or spiritual beliefs, practices, or institutions in a way that restricts personal freedom, critical thinking, or the pursuit of one's own spiritual journey. It is also engaging in practices that expose one to the bondage of sin. These sins, or unhealthy behaviors, may begin as episodic but slowly become one’s character.

It's important to note that these types of bondage can often overlap or coexist, and individuals may experience multiple forms of bondage simultaneously. Overcoming bondage requires self-awareness, empowerment, and taking steps towards liberation and personal freedom. This month we are going to explore each of these dimensions of our lives in order to experience freedom on a deeper level. I challenge you to join me as we embark on living a life of FREEDOM.

Remember, whom the Son sets free, is free INDEED. It's time to break the shackles of bondage.

Dr. Sha'

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