What is the goal of the spiritual life? After all, if you’re going to spend the time and energy to engage spiritual formation, don’t you want to be really clear on the goal? After counting off peace, love, joy, salvation, redemption—all of which would be really good to have, it’s clarifying to see how Jesus answers: if we follow his Way of living and loving life, we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. Freedom.
Surprising? Not when you consider that freedom is both the cause and effect of perfect love.
How do you know something is free, that you are free from it? Unless you’re a scuba diver, air is still free. And until I called your attention to it, you were as unaware of your breathing as of your hair growing. Contrast that with food, of which we think about constantly. Something is free when we don’t have to think about it, plan, work, save, pay, fight, or worry over it. The things from which we are most free are the things we worry about the least. But even if something is free, does that mean we’ll automatically stop worrying?
Jesus tells us God’s perfect love is free as an objective fact. We don’t need to worry. But how many of us are still trying to perform for it, earn it, worrying over whether it really does extend to us? We must be free enough from feelings of unworthiness to be able to take first steps toward an experience of perfect acceptance. Cause. Then once experienced, perfect love casts out fear, makes us more and more free from the fear of unworthiness as the truth of our acceptance sets in. Effect.
For Jesus, truth is not information, but a person—a God who is life and love…freedom itself. Experiencing God is the experience of freedom. Freedom is the experience of worrylessness, which is why Jesus is always telling us not to worry as the first step to freedom. Look at the birds and the flowers. Worry over what you eat and wear just as much as they do. If we can worry less over small things, we can experience the worrylessness of ultimate things. And if we seek the worrylessness of kingdom first, all else is added.
What’s left for worry?