For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15
“Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it.” These are the words spoken by Malcolm Wallace to his young son William in a dream. Malcolm and his oldest son had been killed in a battle against the English, leaving the boy orphaned and bound to set off for parts unknown with his uncle. The dream shows William approaching a table on which his wounded Father was laid. As he draws closer to the table, Malcolm’s body comes to life and he turns to William to deliver his final message to his son. The message is a powerful one – perhaps a bit strange for a common farmer to leave as an epitaph but inspiring nonetheless.
Your heart is free. This is easier said than done. Modern life is filled with responsibilities that seem to make many of our decisions for us. Our jobs, bosses, spouses, children, parents, families, friends, neighbors, churches, community organizations, and governments all play a major role in what we can and cannot do. The repair man comes to fix an appliance between 1-5, leaving you home all day with nothing to do but wait. Your boss complains that all of the work isn’t getting done and you’re working overtime. Your children play on a travel soccer team so your weekends are suddenly filled with driving, cheering, and staying warm and dry. You buy a new smartphone with wireless Internet access designed to make your life simpler only to find that keeping connected further eliminates the opportunity to unwind and pursue the things in life that truly bring you joy. It can be hard to comprehend living in a society that is founded on the fundamental elements of freedom when you stop to think about just how locked in place our lives have actually become. It takes some doing, but it is possible to change that paradigm and return back to a place where your heart is really free, but to do so will require work, perseverance, and above all courage.
Have the courage to follow it. Having painted the picture of a free heart as being so difficult to achieve, it may come as a bit of a surprise to realize that the more difficult aspect of this admonition is to step up and follow it. To some, this may seem to be a gross over-simplification. Courage is the sort of thing you see on a battlefield or in a decision made by a world leader. Many of us don’t see any of the decisions we make on a day to day basis as being terribly important, let alone courageous. But then again, maybe it is that very lack of recognition which leaves so many of us trapped within the lives we currently are living, unwilling to take the necessary risks to receive the maximized benefits. Courage is respected in every situation – including those circumstances that will never earn a medal or save a life. A free heart can fill your mind with thoughts, but it takes courage to make those thoughts a reality. A free heart can inspire you to pursue something you desire, but without courage you are more likely to give up hope at the first signs of struggle or resistance. How many ideas have gone undeveloped? How many relationships have not been pursued? How many dreams have been left on the pillow because we did not step forward in boldness to pursue what God had left for us to have because we simply lacked the courage to fulfill it?
Very little of what I have said here should come as much of a surprise to us. Courage is difficult to summon when we know exactly what to do. It becomes even harder to find when we are still searching for the right path to travel or the best choice to make. How wonderful it is to know that the solution to overcoming our fear can be found in the powerful arms of our loving God. According to William Wallace’s father, true courage comes from following a heart that is free. In real life, our Heavenly Father shows us in His word that this is also true, but in order for this to happen, we must follow God’s plan. Through Christ, our hearts have been redeemed and by the Spirit we are given the courage necessary to step out where we must in order to fully become who God created us to be.