Yesterday, I spent the entire day in a library, basically in one spot, working on a number of projects. When you spend 9.5 hours in a library, you begin to notice the quirks and differences between it and others – and this one had some standouts (when it comes to libraries).
Around about 9:30 or so, as students trickled in, the noise level began to rise. Aren’t libraries normally quiet? Well, yes. But not this one. The director of the library believes that an emphasis on silence actually hampers group studying and so hasn’t imposed the normally mandatory hush across the building.
Then, around 10:00 I looked over to my left and saw a student eating a salad with impunity! A quick check of the library’s policies indicated that covered drinks and snacks are allowed.
In other words, this is a library filled with freedom. The students can act (within reason) in ways that others may only dream of. Yet in my sitting in my self-assigned seat, I noticed an extreme reluctance to enter this freedom. I felt hesitant to answer my phone and I only surreptitiously snuck a few pretzels out of my bag.
I wonder if this is not how many of us are when it comes to entering God’s grace. He grants us Spirit-freedom and welcomes us to explore, but we are so used to our self-imposed rules that we continue to live our confined, restricted lives.
Like me in the library, we may every now and then try to get a taste of this Spirit-freedom, only to shy away in fear that we may actually be breaking some unknown code. We’ve been taught to fear the “fine print” and often our relationship with God reflects it. We act as if our relationship with him is a contractual obligation and he’s just waiting to point to how we violated paragraph four, section A.
But that’s not how things are. God has not gone to the effort of inviting, facilitating and wooing us onto the path of redemption in order to continue our lives as if nothing has changed. The Spirit grants us freedom. Our lives ought to look different not because we are now lawless individuals whom nothing can contain, but because we have discovered our true selves in God’s grace.
We’re invited into a new land (or library, if you will). Walking in that land requires practice, but Spirit-freedom is worth it. In this Lenten season, as we practice giving up some of that freedom, may we be reminded of its preciousness anew.