Free Indeed 16" x 20", Acrylic on Canvas
When I began this painting I did not know it would lead me to deeply consider the meaning of freedom. One day I brought my kids to a local sanctuary for birds of prey and took images of this eagle and a few other birds there. After I completed my owl painting "Out of the Darkness", I knew I wanted this eagle to be part of that same series. Since the eagle is often associated with freedom and used as a symbol in America, I put "free" on the tag, in order to reference those concepts. Since "free" can mean both the “ability to choose or act without bonds” and "without cost", I knew this was the right dual meaning word to place on this tag. The dichotomy of those meanings brought me to question how and if those things can exist at the same time.
I considered changing the word on the eagle's tag. I was feeling that this painting was quickly becoming about way more than I had anticipated. It involved ideas I didn't know enough about. Should I put an "easier" word on the tag?
No. I found that all the concepts swirling around in my mind had commonality and needed to be part of this image.
When I was a teenager I couldn't wait to grow up and leave my house so I could "do whatever I wanted". That was my idea of freedom at the time. The ability to make my own choices and not think about any consequences. A lot of us want that sometimes. To just be. Is that what freedom is?
No. We quickly learn that our actions always have impact on something or someone and when we live totally for ourselves we end up alone. And lonely. We can't be truly free by just doing whatever we want, wherever we want with no thought of others.
As I was thinking about this I also thought about the meaning of "free" being "without cost". It made me consider the sacrifices of soldiers over the years for our nation and many other nations to fight for freedoms and against injustice. Soldiers sacrifice their time, family life, comfort and way too often their lives on this earth, to ensure that we have the freedoms we believe in. This is evidence that freedom does involve cost.
I thought about those in bondage and slavery. Those who can't choose what they want or how they are treated. I don't know about the difficulties our brothers and sisters have faced in slavery. I do know it's unhealthy, unfair and unjust when freedom is violated and when people are not loved and valued the way God intended.
We all want freedom. We want others to experience freedom too. We want this earth to be free of inhumane acts, racism and injustice. But we are human. And part of the human condition is to sin. An inability to always make the right and best decisions. Sometimes we are selfish. A lot of times, if I'm being honest. We need help.
I think true freedom involves being loved unconditionally by someone who has your safety in mind and wants you to flourish, and grow into who you were truly created to be. We are made in God's image and I'm so glad He has made a way for us to experience true freedom.
With all these ideas in mind I went to the Bible where Jesus talks about setting us free.
In John chapter 8 Jesus is talking to a group people referencing the upcoming events of his death and resurrection. They did not understand at the time what He was talking about because it had not yet happened.
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. "
John 8:31-36, NIV (I have added emphasis in bold.)
There are two main ideas: the truth will set you free and the Son sets you free.
Which one is it and what does this mean?
I quickly saw how all these ideas about freedom came together.
The truth will set you free..
When we realize that we are made in God's image and He has sent Jesus, His son, as the way for us to experience relationship with Him and freedom from sin, we can be free. That is the first part talked about in the verses from John above. The truth. Knowing the truth of God's design for Jesus to forgive sins and set us free is the first step.
If the Sons sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The second step is to believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that we are in need of a savior. As I ponder what he has done for me leading up to Good Friday and Easter, I am thankful that the Son has set me free and I am "Free Indeed".
This brings me back to how all these ideas I had about freedom in my head came together. Once we are set free and in a relationship with God who loves us unconditionally, we can ask him to help us be who he created us to be. There is freedom in knowing we have purpose and a future.
Those of us who know true freedom in Christ should also be passionate about protecting freedom and doing what we can to free those in bondage and slavery. We should love others sacrificially with God’s help and power. We were created to be in community with others and with a God who loves us unconditionally and sacrificed his son so that we might have eternal freedom.
Eagles live within the bounds of the laws of nature created by God in this world. They thrive when they are living in their habitat, doing what they were created to do. This image is a reminder that my freedom was purchased with a cost when Christ died for me and through Him I am free like this eagle to flourish within the parameters God created and someday I can experience true freedom with Him in heaven.