In terms of the spirit, accept the limitations placed upon you by the Holy Spirit as the rules of the game, and realize that without those limitations, there is little to celebrate. Life is beautiful when the parameters are well-defined. Friday night is so great because you have the weekend off. The weekend is so great, because you go back to work on Monday. If Saturday is a workday, then Friday isn’t so great, and if you have no job, then the weekend is just another reminder that your freedom isn’t so great either. The parameters are the excitement.
When you sense its time to back off, or honor your neighbor, or lay down your pride, don’t argue with that internal voice in the name of personal liberty. Accept those limitations as the definition of how the game is played. Work becomes easier to endure. School becomes more enjoyable to finish. Even hardship is bearable, if we see the limitations. On a darker note, hardship is the worst it can possibly be when there are no parameters to what it can do to you. This is yet another reason to both accept and to implement boundaries: where they do not exist, the darkest night of the soul has no clock, and can seem to go on forever.
As I sat down to write this essay, I recalled a sermon I did years ago titled “Limits on Our Liberty.” I took my text from Paul’s Corinthian letter, and his pronouncement that “all things are lawful, but not all things edify,” and his follow up verse, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” When you put those two together, Paul is stating that he has the liberty to do whatever he wants, but there is a limit to that liberty, if we pay attention to it. The limit is the edification, or building up, or well-being of our neighbor. If our liberty overruns their well-being then that is the natural limit to that liberty. Thus, liberty is not limitless without limits. But with limits, it is limitless indeed.
Sometimes I want to see if there are other sermons or articles on a subject that I’m wrestling with. I did a quick Google search on “borders on our liberty” in preparation for this writing. I’m not sure if its funny, or sad, or a little of both that I was swamped with articles on securing our national borders, and how the crisis at our borders could inform, or ultimately threaten, our liberty as citizens. I understand this is a crisis that needs addressed, but I found it interesting that you have to go a long way down the page before there is anything remotely spiritual in regards to the liberty of the soul and the limitations of the spirit. Our collective thoughts in regards to borders on liberty seem to have more to do with geography and national interests than with our neighbor and the realm of the Kingdom.
I encourage you to embrace the limitations placed upon you by the Holy Spirit. See them as the fun of this journey. I also encourage you to place some upon yourself in your daily living. When you properly state the limitations, you can then define the possibilities. Once the possibilities are defined, you have something to aim for. Practice this in different areas to see where you may squeeze the most that a moment, or a job, or a marriage, or a life, has to offer.
Live it from the inside out. Accept the limitations of the spirit, within the realm of the spirit, so that you can live them out in the realm of the natural. When that which is best formed in the spirit is pressed upon us from the outside, it sucks the life out of the moment. The law was just and holy and good, but Paul also called it the “ministry of death.” How could this be? The limitations set upon Israel by the law was for their good and for the good of those around them, but that which is enforced from the outside rather than the inside will often lead to resentment, and thus death to our joy and our vitality. When we are forced to act from the outside in, we reject it (see our resistance to mask wearing and social distancing when it is enforced by governments). When we are prompted from the inside out, we follow and find that his commands bring life.
So enjoy your liberty. You are the sons and daughters of God. You are kings over your domain. But embrace the limitations. Accept that the chess pieces can only do what they are assigned to do, and get ready. The game now makes sense, and though you may lose, it is more fun to play a game and lose where there is a chance at winning, than to aimlessly wander under the guise of freedom.
Grace to you.