Thursday, July 7, 2016

On this Day we Celebrate Freedom

The 4th of July is celebrated in America as a day when freedom in this country truly began.  This was freedom from the English governance.  The English had put restrictions on America that proved to be unbearable.  I personally believe that it also seemed foolish to the American colonists that England, ever so far in miles, was taking away all of the profit from America's labors.

The restrictions from England continued to mount.  England truly was greedy and foolish in their handling of the young colony.  These were people loyal to their homeland.  If they had been restricted less, rewarded more, well who knows what might have happened?

Jail, penitentiary, restriction, guilt, limitations, exclusion, bullying, all these are words referring to a different type of lack of freedom.  We all understand that certain behaviors can result in consequences beyond our ability to control.  If we cause harm to others, chances are that we will be caught, tried, and put in jail.

What about having your freedom removed when you have done nothing wrong?  Elie Wiesel was a Jewish prisoner in a Concentration Camp during World War II.  He has written about the realization that came to him one miserable day.  Inspiration taught him that although his German captors could inflict all sorts of horrors on his physical body, he still owned his soul.  He was able to make active choices to act, not react.  He decided that he would not let the squalor of the camp, or the cruelty of the guards decide who he would be.

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian.  She, her elderly Father, and her Sister were hiding some of their Jewish neighbors when someone told the Gestapo about them.  Corrie and Betsy never saw their Father again, and Betsy also died in a Concentration Camp.  Corrie was released through a miraculous mistake in paper work.  She later discovered that she had been scheduled for execution.

After the war she traveled the country speaking about forgiveness, and healing.  One night after teaching a class a man came to her and said, "Your speech was very moving to me.  Thank you so much.  May I shake your hand?"

Corrie looked up and realized that she was in front of one of the cruelest Concentration Camp guards that she and Betsy had faced.  She realized that he did not recognize her.  She had nice clothes on, and was about twenty pounds healthier.

Her speech had been about forgiveness.  How could she forgive this man who had been especially cruel to her frail Sister, Betsy?  Several times she attempted to pull her arm up to shake hands with him.  Her arm would not move.

In her mind she prayed, she asked that she might feel God's love for this man because her mortal love was not strong enough to forgive him.  She describes feeling a warmth that flowed from her shoulder to her hand.  It propelled her arm upwards until she shook his hand.  At that moment she also saw God's love for this man.  She realized that in a way he had been a prisoner just as she was.  He was imprisoned by a horrendous war that brutalized soldiers into doing things they would never have done in peace times.

What prison are you in this morning?  Does your appetite imprison you in a body that is overweight and unhealthy?  That is also one of my prisons.  Maybe you endured some version of trauma in your tender childhood that has left you with eating issues.  When I was nineteen and in fabulous shape as a dancer I was cruel in my mind towards others with weight issues.  I could eat anything that I wanted and never gained a pound.  I thought, "Why don't they just exercise and eat better?" 

AND THEN...along came multiple car accidents that left me with severe chronic pain.  I have bone, muscle, and nerve pain.  My back has too many issues to try and repair it.  The issues are not severe enough to put me in a wheelchair, yet...but someday?

I gained ninety pound over five years time.  I still had the voracious appetite but I was either in a recliner or my bed.  Walking was very painful, and sometimes I would drag one leg.  I developed severe central nerve damage.  My feet quit knowing the difference in floor or ground levels.  I would walk from a wood floor to a carpet, and I would fall because my foot did not automatically shift for the different level.  Several falls made the back, knee, and wrist pain and damage worse.

I repent daily for the foolishness of my judgment towards heavy people in my youth.  Now that I have joined the ranks I understand that when somebody is living with constant pain, often the only pleasure that they feel is food!  I wish that when my pain was terrible that I craved broccoli.  Not really, not so much...nope, bring on the sugar and wrap it in something chocolate!
Even if I eat next to nothing my body still doesn't want to lose weight.  I'm in constant fight or flight mode and my body tries to hoard weight to protect me from starvation...except that I'm NOT starving.
When I married I carried with me the foolish idea that it was my husband's duty to make me happy.  How is this a prison?  My moods went up and down like a roller coaster depending on my husband's moods.  I was trapped, unable to develop and maintain my own emotional stability.

My poor husband was trapped trying to keep me happy.  I'm certain that he was often exhausted from the effort.  I do know that he was grateful when I finally matured enough to realize that I, ME, MY, was responsible for my own happiness, nobody else.  I also learned that you CAN be happy even when somebody that you love is unhappy.  Oh you feel empathetic towards their pain, but letting it pull you down doesn't help them, and it certainly doesn't help you.

One of the most important things you can do in life is to objectively try and determine if you   
if you are in prison.  Sometimes it's necessary to have a therapist help you.  There is no shame in getting help to improve your life.  I believe that everyone could benefit from education and therapy.

To end this post I wish to share a little story.  My husband criticized me one day for something that he had observed.  I did NOT accept his version of the experience.  I immediately became very angry.  I walked to the kitchen.  I began slamming the cupboard doors as I prepared dinner.  I stomped, and fussed, and fumed as though I was five years old instead of thirty-five years old.

In my mind I thought, "If you continue this behavior you will make your entire family miserable!"  I responded in my mind, "He makes me SOOOOO angry!" A thought returned, "Nobody can force an emotion on you without your permission."  "Wait, back up, what he said MADE me angry!"  "I understand that his words were hurtful.  On the other hand, nobody can force an emotion on you.  You always have the freedom to choose NOT TO BE HURT OR ANGRY!"

WOW!  I was dumbfounded at this idea.  I walked back to our bedroom and said to my husband, "What you said really hurt my feelings.  On the other hand, I choose not to let it ruin my day or make me angry."

My husband had a look of wonder on his face that I will never forget.  He said, "Good for you!"  There was no sarcasm implied in his words.  He was genuinely happy that I had begun the journey of determining my own happiness.

Today, this very day, choose to be the owner of your own emotions.  Do not let the actions of anyone else imprison you in negative emotion.  To sum all of this up I remember a very wise saying from my childhood, "I'm rubber, you're glue.  Anything you say bounces off me, and sticks on you!"  


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