I watched this movie called Liberal Arts a few years ago. I don’t remember much of it, but there was a line from the film that I’ll never forget. I wrote it down to make sure I didn’t forget it.
Do you ever have those lines? You think to yourself, “I’ll never forget that line…” And then you do? Just write it down and stop being so proud. You’ll forget it. We all do.
Back to the line.
The line was this: “Anything you don’t leave is a prison.”
“Mmmm…” I thought to myself. What a good line. And it’s so true.
I can see this truth play out with emotional health. Some people choose to stay bound up in bitterness and anger because they won’t forgive someone who hurt them. That’s a prison.
Or staying in an abusive relationship because they don’t know how to have a real loving relationship and they hate themselves. That’s a prison, too.
But is that line always true?
I am in my 8th year of marriage to my amazing wife. We grow closer and closer together every year. But it’s also hard. Like, REAL hard sometimes. Sometimes we fight and get angry with each other. Sometimes we nitpick each other and ruin perfectly good date nights.
And other times, we give up things we’d really like to do or buy for the sake of our family.
So, does having limited freedom mean I’m in a prison?
Some would say so. Our increasingly progressive and sexual-driven culture would say that our instinctive desires should not be inhibited. We should have all the sexual partners we want when we want it.
Does having “unrestrained” freedom mean I’m not in a prison?
Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective…and context.
In a marriage context, I don’t feel imprisoned at all. I have willingly, self-sacrificially given up rights and privileges for the sake of experiencing something that can’t be experienced any other way. And it’s best that way. Marriage is meant to restrict in ways. But it doesn’t mean I’m in prison.
And yet, at the same time, marriage is freeing! It’s invigorating, exciting and communal. I get to do life every day with my best friend. Who doesn’t want that?
I get to be so close to someone that knows every single thing about me – good AND bad – and still chooses to love me. Through this process of self-sacrificial love, she challenges me to be better. I want to be better for her and everyone around me.
I know this is a bit philosophical, but the question to be answered is: Does the restricting of freedoms mean prison?
With marriage as our context, of course, it’s not prison.
With parenting as our context, of course, it’s not prison.
With community as our context, of course, it’s not prison.
Our culture tends to be very excitable about the next big thing. But what stands the test of time is faithfulness.
And at the end of my life, I want people to call me faithful and true. Those are virtues worth living, and dying, for.
So the next time you read or hear some pithy quote, don’t just take it at face value. Dig in, unearth all the possible meanings, and find an answer that isn’t just good for self, but good for everyone.
Anything you don’t leave is NOT a prison. But then again, there’s another pithy statement for you…