We read in the Bible that the Apostle Paul stated, “I was free born” (Acts 22:28). He was a Roman citizen by birth, which afforded him certain privileges. But it didn’t mean he went through life without challenges. In fact, as a follower of Jesus’ teachings, he spent quite a bit of time in prison. And while on a prison transfer, he suffered shipwreck. Back on land, he got bitten by a viper. That doesn’t sound like the privileged life of a free man.
Still, Paul knew the difference between the rights of citizenship, and the freedom that comes with an understanding of God. In fact, he speaks about “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Being a free Roman citizen was nothing compared to the spiritual freedom of being a child of God.
Freedom needs to be recognized, understood, and defended. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, was well aware of that. She devoted time and energy to teaching her students how to recognize and defend their spiritual freedom, and to understand its origin, source, and constant availability. Referring to the Christ Science, she says, “He giveth power, peace, and holiness; he exalteth the lowly; he giveth liberty to the captive, health to the sick, salvation from sin to the sinner—and overcometh the world!” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883−1896, pp. 167–168).
So what happens when we seem to have lost our freedom? That was the question I was confronted with in the spring of 2016, when a series of challenges started happening one after another. I had just finished an important, complicated work assignment, when my car started having trouble and became a fire hazard owing to a faulty oil change. Then, a credit card company called me to let me know that they were closing my account. On top of all that, the skin on my back began hurting, I couldn’t sleep, and I started having pains in different places on my body. All of this was accompanied by a deep desire for peace.
Freedom needs to be recognized, understood, and defended.
I kept mulling over Paul’s statement, “I was free born.” What had happened to my freedom? I was functioning, but it was a struggle. I prayed, at times with the help of a Christian Science practitioner, but I kept feeling that these issues had become fused to me. Had I done anything wrong? Did I “deserve” to suffer? I prayed for direction and understanding and to be free. I longed to understand that our spiritual freedom is impenetrable and that nothing unlike God, good, can affix itself to us, and nothing can disrupt our lives.
Several days later while I was walking our dogs, I prayed and asked God what I needed to see. The image of a whack-a-mole came to mind. Whack-a-mole is a carnival game where a mechanical mole rapidly pops out of any of a number of holes at random. You hold a mallet to hit the “mole” before it disappears again. If you miss, the game is over. The image fit quite well with how I was feeling.
Just then, a very gentle voice in my consciousness quietly said, “You can just go.” And I thought, with wonder, “Yes! I can just go!” It hadn’t occurred to me before, but there was nothing forcing me to whack a make-believe mole on the head. Even if I had inadvertently agreed to play this game—and I was sure I hadn’t signed up for this—I could just stop. Wasn’t this what freedom was all about?
And very gently, I said, “I am going now.” I took my dogs and went home. Whatever weird burden had seemed like part of me was simply left behind, right there on the sidewalk. It was a very calm but final step. And it felt completely natural. I was indeed free, and not only that, but because I was freeborn, this freedom was my normal, God-given state. I mentally put the whole sense of burden down and just left it there without looking back. I knew there was nothing to see.
I learned that nothing unlike God, good, can affix itself to me, or anyone.
Within hours, all the physical ailments left me. I went back to sleeping well, and both the physical pain and the feeling of being overwhelmed disappeared. The world around me also returned to normal, as all of the other disruptions and inconveniences were harmoniously resolved.
This experience continues to impress me. The idea that we can just drop our burden and follow God’s guidance freely seems so simple now, but it hadn’t felt simple before. I learned that nothing unlike God, good, can affix itself to me, or anyone. Mrs. Eddy says, “The human thought must free itself from self-imposed materiality and bondage” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 191). I had needed help freeing my thought, and I was immensely grateful for the gentle push that made this so clear to me.
The spiritual meaning of Paul’s statement, “I was free born,” remained true for his life despite the apparent burdens he dealt with—imprisonment, shipwreck, and the viper, to name a few. Not only did he prove his freedom from it all, he became a teacher and mentor to many generations of Christians, including us. He defended his freedom against any suggestion opposed to it, and this is something we can do as well.
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