The underlying objective behind every goal we set is the condition of greater freedom. This is helpful to consider and critical to understand. By tying our hope for greater freedom to a particular acquisition, we are likely placing an unnecessary obstacle on the actual freedom we seek. “When I get there,” we reason, “I’ll feel good about my life.” But what about here?
The essence of the freedom we seek is actually a spiritual condition. We want to resolve a certain situation so we can feel better. This is totally understandable and reasonable. But is there another path to this goal of feeling better, or is our declared path the only one? With the information we have on hand, we may believe our chosen approach to a given problem is the best, but there is always a better way.
Some years ago my world fell into a tailspin. I had some very clear ideas about what needed to happen if I were to regain control. When these fixes came, I reasoned, I’d be free. These, after all, were the fixes that would resolve outstanding issues and pay the bills. I was also operating under the gnawing assumption that if my world failed, I was a failure. My freedom, my self-esteem, my definition of success all hinged on things going a certain way. If these things didn’t happen, I’d lose the battle to sustain the conditions I believed were essential to my inner freedom.
Then a strange thing happened. While I was praying for these fixes, a powerful truth emerged from within. I rediscovered my spiritual center of strength. In one of those “darkest before the dawn” moments, I experienced a flush of inner strength and peace that assured me I’d be okay even if everything crashed. In this moment of clarity, it didn’t matter that this world I was praying to keep intact fell apart. The strength I found set me in a position high above all that I feared losing. Regardless of what happened, I knew I’d be fine.
The path that unfolded from that point on was not one I had considered. It was far better, a sentiment I shared from an earlier period in the lyrics of one of my songs, Something Spoke to Me:
Over the years I have taken some turns, to places I don’t understand.
But it took every one, to bring me here, I’ve been led by a soft guiding hand.
Faith is a very interesting faculty. When it’s directed only to the outworking of unruly circumstances, it becomes a flashlight beam that causes us think of ourselves and our life as that which is within this circle of light. Faith, in its highest function, turns off the flashlight, allows our eyes to adjust, prompts us to look up and you see the vast universe of stars spread out overhead. Occupied with life within the beam, we forget that our soul perpetually resides in a much larger, completely unfettered context. We are children, not of the flashlight beam, but of the universe. It is in this larger context that we find our spiritual center of strength, power and freedom.
When Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, I believe he was talking about the world of flashlight beams. His kingdom was the universe, the soul’s true home. So much in our religious training misses this, as it teaches that we mere humans are destined to make due with life, to walk a straight and narrow path within the beam. I believe Jesus’ real message encourages us to turn off the flashlight, lift our spiritual eyes and behold the vast kingdom of God that is our true and eternal home.
If we are focused only on finding contentment, peace and freedom within this circle of light we call our daily earthly life, then we’re putting conditions on our freedom that in reality do not exist. Do you think the success of the universe depends on what does or does not happen within your little circle of light? The drama that unfolds on this tiny stage is inconsequential to the bigger picture. Does this mean your individual life is unimportant? No. It means that if you are to live your life successfully, you start with the understanding of your inseparable oneness with that star-studded cosmos. You draw your strength, not from the proper arrangement of things within your little circle of light, but from the larger cosmic context within which you presently live, move and have your being.
Within your circle of light, you’re likely saying there are yet four months to harvest. This or that thing must happen before I win the prize of peace and freedom. Jesus encouraged us to lift up our eyes and see the fields are ready for harvest now. Turn off the flashlight and see that you live in all you will ever need at this moment. The universe, after all, is not moving toward some state of perfection. It is perfect already, and you and I are integral expressions of it. Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father (your cosmic source) is perfect. Now this rather enigmatic statement begins to make sense.
Your goal is not the thing you desire. Your goal is the freedom you believe the thing will bring. Your goal is not the resolution of unruly circumstances that are now playing out within your flashlight beam. Your goal is to remember who and what you are. This is your center of strength, peace and power. This is the freedom you desire.