As the van drove away, I felt Erin’s head lean hard against my shoulder and I could hear that she was crying. I felt my heart beating faster with the strangest sort of longing. And for the next minute or two we had a deep and meaningful conversation without speaking any words at all. I knew how she was feeling and she knew how I was feeling. We had anticipated this day for quite some time. We had already planned out all of the things that we were going to do with our two weeks of freedom. It was going to be like a sort of vacation from the chaos of everyday life. It was going to be a refreshing break for us, an opportunity to reconnect. And as true as all of that was, as my parents pulled away with our kids in their van it felt like our hearts were driving off with them.
The kids have begun their Summer Grandparent Tour, which involves a week with my parents in Virginia and a week with Erin’s parents in Georgia and then back to Florida, although I will be in Alaska when they return. All in all it will be about 3 ½ weeks before I will see my kids again. Now, don’t let the melodramatic opening to this post fool you, I am incredibly excited about the freedom that we are going have as a child-free couple. I am immensely grateful to our parents for doing this for the kids and for us. Ultimately, I trust God with my kids and I believe that they are just as safe in Virginia and Georgia as they are here with us in Florida because God happens to live in those places too. Although there are parts of Georgia that are questionable…
All of this has had me thinking a lot about freedom. The decision to have kids was a decision that would change our lives forever and one that would cost us a great deal of freedom that we used to enjoy (i.e. the freedom to spontaneously go out with friends and hang out until late in the night, the freedom to have a morning routine that only involved getting myself ready, the freedom to have a peaceful and relaxing home, the freedom to have money). All of these freedoms and many, many more we voluntarily laid aside to become parents.
In our Life Group this past week we were actually talking about how our culture is obsessed with the idea of freedom and terribly offended by the existence of any sort of rules that would confine them to or from certain behaviors. But the strange thing about freedom is that as much as we enjoy the idea of complete and total freedom, none of us actually live that way. We regularly sacrifice our freedom in order to move forward in our lives. For instance, when you choose a college (or whether or not to go to college at all) you are obligating yourself to certain things and surrendering certain freedoms in order to do so. When you get a job, you are submitting yourself to certain requirements and sacrificing certain freedoms that you used to have in order to have this job, which you decided was ultimately better for you and your future than the freedom of not having a job. When you choose to get married, you are choosing to join your life to the life of another person and there are a huge amount of restrictions that that decision will ultimately place on your life. But with each of these decisions, you have decided that the cost of your freedom was worth the reward that you would get out of it.
There are freedoms that you have to surrender in order to move into a deeper more satisfying experience of life. It seems that we all intrinsically know this to be true. But when it comes to the idea that God has shown us a way to live that involves restrictions on our freedom we freak out. We assume that He is trying to rob us of joy and we fail to realize that He is actually trying to lead us into a more fulfilling experience of this life and the one in the age to come. Every imperative given to us in the scriptures is ultimately meant to lead us into joy not away from it, even if, at the moment, it seems painful and confusing.
Now I will enjoy the next couple of weeks, as Erin and I rediscover the freedom of life without kids. But I will gladly and without hesitation surrender it all again when I get off that plane and see my kids waiting for me in the airport. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I gave up certain freedoms that I was able to discover the most meaningful experiences in my life. Maybe freedom is over-rated… or at least misunderstood.