As a child I loved to climb and dance – I was the sort of child who hated to sit still and would run everywhere and climb on everything. I also enjoyed making friends who did the same thing. Over the years I have met many children, some in other countries where we would play together loudly and untameably – language barriers were not an issue. I loved feeling like nothing could hold me back and that I was free.
As I’ve grown up, I like to think I haven’t completely lost that sense of freedom. But now, as well as having embarrassingly little inhibition when it comes to dancing, I find true freedom elsewhere. Jesus died to set me free from sin and death. He rescued us from the domain of darkness; He died so one day, we can live forever with ‘no more death, or mourning or crying or pain’. Over the years God has shown me that He didn’t just send his son to the cross so that I can live contently and comfortably (however much I may want to). No; Jesus died the most brutal and humiliating death to set me free from the chains of death that I could not even nearly remove myself. Now, in debt to Him and irreversibly freed by Him, I choose to live the way He has called me. Galatians 5:13-14 says “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. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself””. Living free and living God’s way means I want to love everyone the way Jesus did.
When I was 9 my whole belief that the purpose of children was to play and be free was challenged. I went with my parents to an orphanage in Romania where they had worked before I was born. I imagined lots of excited children who got to live together and play together all the time – I couldn’t wait to join in. But when I got there, for once, I didn’t want to play: the building was smelly and dirty and bare, with no toys inside and the children were rarely allowed outside. I wasn’t met with all the smiles I was expecting, and instead even saw kids who were tied down. I was scared and confused. I remember my parents telling me more about what the children in the orphanage had been through and not understanding how something so unfair could be happening to people who should have the right, like me, to be happy and be silly.
I still don’t understand how something so unfair can be happening on such a big scale – the number of children around the world who don’t have the freedom that God intends for them is heart-breaking. Global estimates from UNICEF AND ILO indicate that 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in labour, 120 million under the age of 14. I am horrified that while I was swinging on trees, children my age were being forced to work – a large amount of them in ways that are dangerous and humiliating. But so much more than my disbelief, is God’s heartache. I can’t begin to comprehend how much it pains him to see his children being treated like anything less than the most-loved and most-precious sons and daughters that they are. He sent His own son to the cross so all children would know His love and live in peace. We all have a right to this freedom.
I am so fortunate to have had a childhood of freedom and I am even more fortunate to be able to call myself a child of God. My prayer is that I would hear God’s call – and that I wouldn’t take my freedom for granted and just use it to keep myself content and comfortable, but that I would live in a way that shows others the true freedom that Jesus brings, the love that He has for everyone, and the longing that God has to call us all, whatever age, His children. Nelson Mandela said, “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” – this is how Jesus lived and how He calls us to live.