One of the things that I have realized on this trip is how amazing it is to have freedom - simply the freedom to drive cross country and enjoy all the beautiful views. Whether it was white sandy beaches or snow covered fields, sparkling blue skies or dark, foreboding clouds, flat land that goes for miles or rolling mountains in Tennessee - we have seen some amazing things on this trip!
A few days ago I heard from my step-brother’s mom. She was letting me know that Richie has been sentenced and moved to a high security federal prison in upstate NY. It is about 3 hours away for me in Albany, and 7 for her. It's sometimes called "The Siberia of NY." This is a big difference from where he was before, when most of the family could go during visiting hours. I was sad for him, as I thought about the lack of visitors he will probably receive there. Not to mention that it is no longer a simple county jail – but instead a prison where many infamous prisoners have been housed for rape, murder, and kidnapping. This is the place that my brother will be living for the next 25 years to life. His mistakes have cost his freedom.
The pastor at the church we attended this week was talking about the fact that nothing that we do can change the end results of this life if we know Jesus. He was talking about the fact that the freedom that we have to choose Heaven was given to us at the ultimate price, and there's nothing we can do to change that. We are positionally set. However, there are things in the world that we face, choices we make and the flesh that we fight. Sometimes we make the wrong choices. And most of the time these choices are made knowingly - sometimes even in the face of the idea that we are "safe" anyway, because of God's grace. Though that may be true, we still lose a lot as a Christian when we decide to live as though Heaven is the only thing that matters. When we don't align our everyday thoughts, choices, desires, and actions with what God has in mind for us, we sacrifice a lot of the freedom that we have as Christians.
As I was thinking about this alongside of the stuff happening with my brother I could see obvious consequences in his life. He has since professed Christ, and after much communication with him including a visit, I believe he is sincere. But his choices that he made have consequences that cannot be erased. He will not see his daughters grow up, he will not be able to enjoy the ocean's surf for a very long time, he will not be able to choose what he wants to have for dinner or when to wake up and go to bed - the simplest things are decided for him now.
Though we may not all have things that seem that obvious, there are so many things that keep us prisoner and take away our freedoms. I have watched as friends lose spouses because they choose to believe the grass is greener elsewhere. This brings an onslaught of death and decay to everyone in their path, not just them. We see friends being caught up in pornography because they make the decision to believe that their right to own a computer and have unlimited Internet is more important than their goal of thinking upon things that are holy and pure. In my own life, I see prison walls come up when I choose to believe the lies that God is not for me, and that he does not love me, take joy in me, and delight in me. I get trapped in anger, self-pity, and arrogance when I choose to live this way.
But there is real freedom when we open our eyes to these things. Even in his physical prison my brother can experience freedom that comes from knowing Jesus in real and intimate ways and believing that his Word is Truth. I am so thankful for a Father who wraps me in his arms and shows me not only who I am in him and his love for me, but the freedom that comes from living in his will. And then ultimately, the peace.