My early adulthood made it easy believe that God was a magical genie. If I prayed hard enough and worked hard enough and had just the right amount of faith mixed in, I could do anything or have anything. (Except the ever elusive pony. That never happened.) Conversely if I didn't get what I wanted, I just hadn't mixed the potion carefully enough.
My late 30s taught me the opposite was true. I never became an unbeliever. I always knew God was there. Somewhere. Far, far away. (To lose that would be to lose everything.)
I knew God cared about The Plan. His plan. But I didn't believe he really cared about individuals. At least not all individuals. I mean how could God always be helping Sister B find her carelessly misplaced keys, making sure an anonymous friend dropped off the exact amount of change she needed, “inspired” her about her breakfast cereal choices (and on and on) and still allow children to be abused, governments to enslave, and innocent people (even those who knew him and sincerely tried to follow him) to be irreparable harmed by evil people.
Ultimately I came to the conclusion that God cares deeply, but that his plan for agency and freedom requires that he step back and let things take their course. Strangely, perhaps, my thoughts came as a result of political discussions.
America was a land God prepared to be free. It was a place where the gospel could be restored. It was a place where, in spite of hardships, believers could flourish and — most important of all — choose to follow their convictions.
Freedom, however, has an enormous cost. As I sang in elementary school, “freedom isn't free…you've got to pay the price, you've got to sacrifice for your liberty.”
Our culture has changed so much over the past 200+ years. From those who were willing to risk life and limb for just the chance to scrape together a life free from tyranny, we have become a people who feel entitled to everything. We feel that enslaving others for our personal comfort or to assuage our guilt at the misfortune of others is justified because the outcome, on our minds, it “good.”
We have become a people of platitudes who have accepted the idea that we can (and should!) extend the Constitutional rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and the further specified rights in the Bill of Rights to include anything and everything we think is “good” — and anything and everything we harbor guilt over.
Everyone has the right to food and shelter.
Everyone has the right to an education.
Everyone has the right to health care.
And on and on. Never seeming to realize that when we make commodities into “rights” we necessarily enslave others to provide those things we demand.
And thus I realized that while it feels awful to know there are innocent children in the world literally starving right this minute — while I sit in my Sunday suit in my beautiful home with central air conditioning at my cutting edge Macintosh with a super high speed internet — I realize that is the price of freedom.
With that freedom, the honorable choice cannot be to legislate away the freedom of others. Rather it must be to push up my sleeves and use those blessings to lift and serve others.
Our purpose here is not to cruise through life on auto pilot, having lots of fun along the way. Our purpose is to find Him. Some of us start that path in a idyllic suburban home in Happy Valley, some it a large city, some in a tropical hut, some in a slum, some in circumstances most of those reading this will never imagine.
For all of us, that path back to God is sown with opportunities to extend love, kindness, assistance, resources, and the Good News to our fellow travelers. We don't give away our freedom for comfort or security or a to assuage guilt. We use our freedom to improve as many lives as possible. That is our identity and purpose.
Watch this video clip together.
Here are some example questions to ask about freedom and agency:
- Why does God give us agency?
- Why do people want to live in lands that are more free?
- What are good things about freedom and agency?
- Do we have problems because of freedom and agency? How to we deal with those?
- How does God want us to use our agency?
Russell M. Nelson said:
Men's hearts are failing (and that includes women) because they forget their identity and their purpose. Heartaches will come…Be patient with yourself. Perfection comes not in this life, but in the next.
How do you help your children understand the proper use of freedom and agency?