What is freedom?

I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. -Exodus 6:6

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. -Jesus in John 8:31-32

Dear members and friends,

The book of Exodus reminds us of both the value and meaning of what it means to be free. The biblical story in Exodus illustrates that earning freedom always comes with its own consequences. Soon after being freed from slavery under the Egyptians, the Israelites faced the harsh reality of what comes with the newly-gained freedom: they found themselves wandering in the desert without a clear identity or means for survival. A lesson we should learn from this part of Exodus is that getting out of trouble does not necessarily guarantee us a life of ease. Rather, we face another kind of trouble, which could be even more challenging than the first. However, for the sake of life itself, all challenges are necessary steps through which we grow and become proper and mature humans.  

As we read this ancient story that happened about 3,200 years ago, we know for sure that the challenges of the Israelites were necessary steps for them to become a nation instead of just a group of people. At the same time, this story deeply reflects the stages of our own lives:  

  1. The Israelites moving into Egypt could be compared to our birth to loving parents. 
  2. The four hundred years when the Israelites grew large and prospered could be compared to how we grow under the loving provisions and guidance of parents. 
  3. The time when the Israelites lived under forced labor is analogous to late adolescence when we feel like our parents are dictating our life while we desire independence. 
  4. The ten disasters exacted upon Egypt and the miraculous delivery of God could be understood as the turbulent time when we declare our independence from parents and try to do things in our own way. 
  5. Acknowledging the reality that Israelites found themselves wandering the desert and missing what they enjoyed in Egypt is similar to when we come to realize that independence from our parents also means taking responsibility for our decisions and their consequences.
  6. Wandering in the desert, yet still being protected and fed by God could be compared to adult life itself, which is filled with many turbulent moments and challenges while still under the protection of the divine providence.  

As we read this ancient story, let us take a moment to reflect upon the stages of our own lives. Perhaps we could express our heartfelt gratitude to those who supported and encouraged us to overcome obstacles and challenges, and deeply acknowledge the meaning and value of our freedom and independence. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee