739) Longing to Be Free

 From The Strong-willed Child, by Dr. James Dobson, 1978, pages 181-182.

     My daughter has a pet hamster (uncreatively named ‘Hammy’) who has a passion for freedom.  He spends a portion of every night gnawing on the metal bars of his cage and forcing his head through the trap door.  Recently I sat watching Hammy busily trying to escape.  But I was not the only one observing the furry little creature.  Sitting in the shadows a few feet away was old Sigmund, our dog.  His erect ears, squinted eyes, and panting tongue betrayed his sinister thoughts.  Sigmund was thinking, “Come on, Hammy, break through to freedom!  Bite those bars and get away, and I’ll give you a thrill like you’ve never experienced.”

     How interesting, I thought, that the hamster’s greatest desire would bring him instant and violent death if he should be so unfortunate to achieve it.  Hammy simply lacked the perspective to realize the folly of his wishes.  The application to human experience was too striking to be missed and I shook my head silently as the animal drama spoke to me.  There are occasions when the longings and desires of our children would be harmful or disastrous if granted.  They would choose midnight bedtime hours and no schoolwork and endless cartoons on television and chocolate sundaes by the dozen.  And in later years, they might not see the harm of drug abuse and premarital sex and a life of uninterrupted fun and games.  Like Hammy, they lack the perspective to observe the dangers which lurk in the shadows.  Alas, many young people are ‘devoured’ before they even know that they have made a fatal mistake.

     Then my thoughts meandered a bit farther, to my own relationship with God and the requests I submit to Him in personal prayer.  I wondered how many times I had asked Him to open the door on my ‘cage,’ not appreciating the security it was providing.  I resolved to accept His negative answers with greater submission in the future.

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Psalm 119:44-45  —  I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.  I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

Galatians 5:13  —  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

II Peter 2:19  —  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity; for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

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Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the throne of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, 1758, Robert Robertson

110) From “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a young man

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born into slavery in Maryland.  He escaped slavery as a young man, and became the most prominent black abolitionist of his time.  He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, and was a powerful orator.  He was a firm believer in the equality of all people and often said, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”  In this selection from his autobiography (pages 82-84), Douglass declares that it was faith that enabled him to endure the sufferings of slavery, and it was faith that gave him the hope that he would someday be free.  He was an ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

     Previously to my contemplation of the anti-slavery movement, my mind had been seriously awakened to the subject of religion.  I was not more than thirteen years old, when in my loneliness and destitution I longed for some one to whom I could go, as to a father and protector.  The preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson, was the means of causing me to feel that in God I had such a friend.  He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God:  that they were by nature rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God through Christ.  I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion of what was required of me, but one thing I did know well:  I was wretched and had no means of making myself otherwise.

     I consulted a good old colored man named Charles Lawson, and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to “cast all my care upon God.”  This I sought to do; and though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through doubts and fears, I finally found my burden lightened, and my heart relieved.  I loved all mankind, slaveholders not excepted, though I abhorred slavery more than ever.  I saw the world in a new light, and my great concern was to have everybody converted.  My desire to learn increased, and especially, did I want a thorough acquaintance with the contents of the Bible.  I have gathered scattered pages of the Bible from the filthy street-gutters, and washed and dried them, that in moments of leisure I might get a word or two of wisdom from them.

     While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I continued my acquaintance with Lawson.  This man not only prayed three times a day, but he prayed as he walked through the streets, at his work, on his dray– everywhere.  His life was a life of prayer, and his words when he spoke to any one, were about a better world.  Uncle Lawson lived near Master Hugh’s house, and becoming deeply attached to him, I went often with him to prayer-meeting, and spent much of my leisure time with him on Sunday.  The old man could read a little, and I was a great help to him in making out the hard words, for I was a better reader than he.  I could teach him “the letter,” but he could teach me “the spirit,” and refreshing times we had together, in singing and praying.  These meetings went on for a long time without the knowledge of Master Hugh or my mistress.  Both knew, however, that I had become religious, and seemed to respect my conscientious piety.

     …Uncle Lawson was my spiritual father and I loved him intensely, and was at his house every chance I could get…  The good old man had told me that the “Lord had a great work for me to do,” and I must prepare to do it; that he had been shown that I must preach the gospel.  His words made a very deep impression upon me, and I verily felt that some such work was before me, though I could not see how I could ever engage in its performance.  “The good Lord would bring it to pass in his own good time,” he said, and that I must go on reading and studying the scriptures.  This advice and these suggestions were not without their influence on my character and destiny.  He fanned my already intense love of knowledge into a flame by assuring me that I was to be a useful man in the world.  When I would say to him, “How can these things be? and what can I do?” his simple reply, was, “Trust in the Lord.”  When I would tell him, “I am a slave, and a slave for life, how can I do anything?” he would quietly answer, “The Lord can make you free, my dear; all things are possible with Him; only have faith in God. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’  If you want liberty, ask the Lord for it in FAITH, and he will give it to you.”

     Thus assured and thus cheered on under the inspiration of hope, I worked and prayed with a light heart, believing that my life was under the guidance of a wisdom higher than my own.  With all other blessings sought at the mercy seat, I always prayed that God would, of his great mercy and in his own good time, deliver me from my bondage.

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I Peter 5:6-7 — Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Luke 11:9-10 — (Jesus said), “So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

John 8:36 — So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

–Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass’s Prayer for Freedom:

O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!…  O God, save me!  God, deliver me!  Let me be free!  Is there any God?  Why am I a slave?  I will run away. I will not stand it.  Get caught, or get clear, I’ll try it…  I have only one life to lose.  I had as well be killed running as die standing.  Only think of it; 100 miles straight north, and I am free!  Try it?  Yes!  God is helping me, and I will.  It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave.