FREEDOM takes many forms. In the United States, it is illustrated by the upcoming Fourth of July celebration, which commemorates the nation's birth. For other countries there are similar special dates or events that highlight the progress of freedom. For us as individuals, freedom may mean not needing to worry about money or health care or safety. It may involve escape from an abusive or destructive relationship, from addiction, or similar troubles.
In each of these cases, prayer is not only a viable option, it is the best choice. God's purpose for all of us is that we be free. This point is brought out in a letter written by Paul, one of Christ Jesus' followers. He writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, ``Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'' (3:17). Paul's point is fully supported by the events of Christ Jesus' ministry. Over and over again, the Bible tells us of people who were cured of sickness, redeemed from sin, and raised from death. While the Bible records healings prior to Jesus' life, his work is still unsurpassed. Through his teachings we learn of his clear understanding of God's love for man and of our inseparability from God, our creator. His purpose is for us to be healers also. This means, then, that by understanding God as Jesus did, you and I can know freedom from whatever ills we face.
God, Spirit, is not finite or mortal, so it is impossible to imprison or limit Him. Because He is infinite, He is ever present, and this means that wherever we are, we can feel His presence, which brings freedom with it. Man, being made in God's likeness, is spiritual. So it follows that he must be as free as his Maker. Freedom from anything that would imprison us mentally or physically is our divine right.
We lose our grasp on liberty when we accept the mistaken belief that we are mortal beings, unable to resist sin, subject to disease, and entangled in actions that we regret. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes much about liberty in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Speaking specifically of the ways in which we are unwittingly deprived of our freedom, she writes, ``The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being'' (p. 227).
In reality, we are the sons and daughters of God, subject only to spiritual sense, which reveals to us our true and limitless nature. When we accept this fact, we discover our inherent ability to express spiritual qualities such as love, joy, peace, purity, and goodness no matter where we are. To the degree that we persist in claiming our true nature, and live it, we gain our freedom.
I learned this lesson about liberty in an unusual way. I was visiting a bird rehabilitation center and saw a golden eagle that had been diagnosed as too injured to be released. The eagle, however, persistently attempted to fly. He couldn't seem to fly in a straight line, but that didn't stop him from trying. As I watched him, I wondered what would happen if the eagle succeeded in figuring out how to fly freely again but the people taking care of him didn't realize it.
At first, I had a suffocating feeling as I thought of the bird being trapped even though it could be free. This feeling was so overwhelming that I turned to God in prayer for a thought that would help me (and maybe even the bird). When the spiritual insight came, it was as sharp as a shaft of light. I suddenly saw that true freedom is so powerful that it includes all the conditions that are necessary for its appearance. In other words, because God cannot be ``contained'' or made finite, neither are any of His ideas, or offspring. When the perfection of God is felt and understood, freedom must be present because this is the nature of the Divine Being. The eagle, as an expression of God, could know that freedom, too. It did not have to be limited by injury.
A couple of years went by, and every time I thought of the sanctuary, I thought of the eagle. I always affirmed its right to be free and whole, just as the spiritual insight I had had that winter day had promised.
Earlier this year, I received the sanctuary's newsletter. The headline on the front brought tears to my eyes. It read, ``An Eagle Returns to the Wild.'' Yes, it was that eagle. Interestingly enough, the people caring for it had gradually come to change their original diagnosis that it was unreleasable. All the conditions that the eagle needed for liberty were present, and it was set free.
All of us can know our freedom as the sons and daughters of God. No matter what you have been told about your prospects for the future, your physical or mental abilities, your appearance or health, you are free because nothing can take away what God gives to man. God made you free, and you can accept your freedom and be free. Even if you start small, claim your liberty today and tomorrow and the next day. Be persistent. And you, too, will soar on the wings of freedom.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
because the Lord hath anointed me
to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison
to them that are bound;
the acceptable year of the Lord.
Isaiah 61:1, 2