We talk a lot about freedom in this country. Indeed, it shapes the contours of all our lives from the newborn in the ICU at the hospital to the gentleman in the “century club” making his way through the quiet halls of the assisted living facility. We all seek freedom, don’t we? Freedom to learn, freedom to explore, and certainly freedom to love. I suspect our marriages are touched and retouched by the cry of freedom that courses through our lungs, veins, and arteries. Could a good marriage be the ultimate expression of Freedom? Is it worth fighting for and perhaps dying for? I say, “YES!” But, I encourage you to judge for yourself.
First, accompany me through a depiction of Freedom’s fire…
They’d come from all walks of life, trusting that their loves would keep the home warm and ready for their eventual returns. Farmers and merchants, lawyers and politicians. Some had spent a lifetime in the busy, smoky clamor of the big city, while others hadn’t ventured too far beyond their family lands. The oldest of the bunch was 70, the youngest was 26. Several were well versed in political theory and adept at articulating their high ideals, while many had been educated behind the plow or wood plane.
For a few summer weeks, they were summoned to a great space to talk about the sad state of things and how they might respond to perceived injustices. It was supposed to be a time for the exchange of ideas, a sounding board. A few advocated for the status quo. A couple authorized appeasement of oppressors. Most insisted that it was time to act boldly – decisively. A change of direction was needed. A change of plans. As the wind shifted and the fire grew, it was clear that the great gathering space in the City of Brotherly love had become the crucible of representative democracy.
A thirty-three-year-old Virginian was tasked with leading a working group who would craft the document declaring the change of direction to the world. “We hold These truths to be self-evident,” it began, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It was beyond bold. It was audacious. It was a case for Freedom made by those willing to change course in their lives for a cause so much bigger than the cause of the individual.
The Declaration was adopted on July 2. It was signed on July 4. The church bells rang in Philadelphia on the fourth. Other cities, like Charleston, would follow suite within a few days. Signatures affixed to the bottom of the document, it was sent across the pond to the King.
And with that the signers, went out of the great space. Traveling in all directions to tell the news of Independence. It was dangerous work, tedious work, important work. Many would suffer mightily for the cause they championed, but they would not turn back.
The elder statesman of the group, we know him as Ben Franklin, told his friends as they moved deeper into their important cause, “We must hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
Doesn’t marriage have this effect on us?
Doesn’t the prospect of planting roots with the one who makes our heart sing compel us to change direction and take some risks?
Sometimes your plans change. Marriage is a case study in the potential of weathering the change. You expect one thing, you experience another. You chart a course, only to face a detour you never anticipated. It happens. It’s life. It demands a response. You can fear the detour. You can deny its arrival. Or you can embrace it; take it on, trusting that something bigger than you, is at work.
When we choose the path of marriage, we are placing our bets on a power that’s bigger and far more liberating than anything we can muster for ourselves. The power I speak of is love, and it has the potential to hope all things, believe all things, endure all things. Marriage is the ultimate expression of freedom because it affirms that Love accompanies us as we take on the world. Marriage embodies the good news that we confront the hills and valleys of life TOGETHER. The struggles and joys are encountered and overcome TOGETHER, a life partner walking with each of us through the briers and the strawberry fields. The celebrations of life are far sweeter because we enter them TOGETHER!
There’s a reason the church bells ring when we emerge from the wedding feast with our beloved in tow. That’s the sound of freedom, friends. We are taking on life – all it has to offer – in relationship. God willing, our freedom-wrapped relationships will sustain us until our last breaths.