When I got married, I was no longer free. I couldn’t play League of Legends whenever I wanted. I couldn’t eat chicken wings in bed. I had to tell my wife that I was going down to the store to get a jug of milk.
But I don’t mind. Not at all.
I’m not sure why exactly. It’s not because I’ve somehow gained more than I’ve lost–it’s more like I’ve gained what I lost as well as gained what I’ve gained. It doesn’t really make sense but that’s the way it is.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think that this sort of counterintuitive accounting occurs when anyone is in a good relationship.
A. C. Grayling recently presented the first of eight “Fragile Freedoms” lectures on CBC’s Ideas. In it he said that there is no possibility of living the good life if one is not free.
Grayling, along with most other modernists, would be right if human beings were made for autonomy. But what if we weren’t primarily made to be free? What if we were made first for something else?
What if we were made for relationship? Not just in marriage, but in friendship and family, and not just with people but with animals and even the physical world.
The Biblical story suggests human beings are made to be in relationship, first with their Creator and, after, with everything else. We were made to be the objects of God’s love. He says through Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (31:3). Suppose we were made to receive and the to return his love and to spread it out to the rest of the creation?
If this is the purpose for which we were made, freedom is still a very important part of who we are. Love is impossible without freedom. There is no possibility to love someone if there is no freedom to reject their love. It’s all there in Genesis 1-3. Humanity was created for relationship with God (and with each other and with the world). We had a choice and chose to reject God’s love. This didn’t change our purpose, just our ability to fulfill it.
So who is right about human nature? The modernists like Grayling or those who adhere to the Biblical view of man?
There is a simple test: Who experiences more fulfillment in life? The person whose freedom is expressed through relationships or the one whose relationship is subordinate to his freedom.
In my experience, freedom is best enjoyed in the context of relationships, even though you surrender it most of the time. I think this is a universal experience when we are talking about “good” relationships. Those who insist on freedom first will be able to eat chicken wings in bed, but they won’t have anyone who cares that they stepped out for a jug of milk.