Majority of people define freedom as the ability to do whatever they please. College life to me then was the ultimate free life—I had the power to choose and do whatever I wanted when I wanted it. I could cut class when I want to, I could opt not to follow my curfew and disobey my parents, all just because. I want therefore I do. You see, at times our perception of freedom can be quite selfish, with almost zero regard for others.
But do you think I experienced true freedom back in college? Truthfully, no. In fact in retrospect, I was imprisoned by so many things—peer pressure, public perception, sexual immorality, alcohol… I was not free. I was the opposite of what I claimed to be.
I would say yes to all impulses and invitations for fear of displeasing others and losing friends, of being left behind of being a killjoy and of not belong. Ultimately, I was afraid to be alone—you know I would eat in the comfort room cubicle if I did not have a friend to eat with on a table at the cafe so I won’t look like a loser or a loner. In all those years that I felt I was one famous artista from Ateneo, truly inside I was empty, fearful and insecure. More often than not we overcompensate to conceal what we lack.
It was not long after until I became aware that I was imprisoned by my lifestyle and poor principles. I realized that my identity was dependent on the company I had, the clubs we visited, the random “cool” adventures we did, the things I engaged in, the patron on our table.
But when the Lord removed me from this environment, when I became a mother, I was stripped off of everything I thought gave me happiness and identity.
Now that I have been renewed and have acquired a new set of convictions—only by the Grace of God—and you ask me what freedom is, I’d say it is the liberty to say no. A lot of people cannot say so even if they really don’t want to say yes. Freedom is in fact choosing whom and in what situations you give your precious yes to and saying no to the things that may make you stumble and compromise your beliefs, resources, time and even health.
I knew the difference of this true freedom—versus the pseudo/quasi-freedom I thought was the real thing—when I felt peace with decisions that called me to put my foot down; when what was right had more weight than what was more convenient; when I learned to stand firm in keeping my convictions. There is no fear in true freedom. You can sleep well at night.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” I believe that before we experience that true and real freedom, we must first go through slavery and imprisonment. As the adage says, “the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.”
That suffocating feeling will one day tip and you just do not want to keep saying yes anymore at your cost. One day, you will be so tired of being everywhere, available for everyone, and losing yourself in the process. One day, you will raise the white flag up and surrender.
I surrendered around this time six years ago. I was so tired of complaining about my situation, tired of looking everywhere for a solution to our “family” problems, tired of blaming others, tired of being in control, tired of trying to prove something.
Surrendering my life to Jesus was one of the most liberating decisions I have ever made. I was no longer a slave to unforgiveness and bitterness, especially towards the biological father of my child. I no longer had to point fingers because in humble admission, I was also part of my problem. I was free to take the blame.
My faith enabled me to accept and embrace my situation as a training arena to become version 2.0—to accept accountability of my circumstances (as direct consequence of my choices). I stopped feeling like a helpless victim and instead I became an empowered, liberated, victorious child of God.
I once thought I was free. But I was a slave of the world. Now in Christ, I enjoy true freedom. I am free to say noto the world, and yes to what He asks of me. I now know the truth—that I am placed on this earth to live for God; and this truth has and continually sets me free (John 8:32).
I pray that you also enjoy this same kind of freedom and be liberated from any bondages the world has on you.