Monday, February 26, 2007

Freed for...

I don't know if it's the way my mind works or if life's circumstances just swirl around me in ways that cause me to make connections. On a visit to see our youngest daughter, my wife and I had some pretty interesting experiences that relate to the Title of this post - "Freed for..." There were three experiences - one was attendance at a Carnegie Mellon Black History Month program called "Incognito," the other was viewing the film "Amazing Grace," and the third was going to church at Shadyside Presbyterian on Sunday, 2-25-07.

"Incognito" is a one-man show that relates the true story of Michael Fosberg, who when he was 30-years old, set out to find his genetic father when his mother divorced his step-father. The story was wonderfully complex but the bottom line is that Michael discovered in his search a very loving father who had waited all that time for the moment that Michael would come to find him. You see, the complexity of the story included the fact that, while Michael identified throughout his life as white, his father was African American. This autobiography revealed the surprise but the freeing of Michael's soul to be loved by a long-forgotten father.

"Amazing Grace" is a film about William Wilberforce, a British gentleman who fought Britain's role in the slave trade throughout the early nineteenth century. Wilberforce's journey was inspired by a confidant who was a monk but previously served as a slave-ship captain. The monk was the author of "Amazing Grace," a hymn he wrote in an attempt to repent for the horific abuses he perpetrated during many passages across the Atlantic. Wilberforce was haunted by the images of slaves in shackles with 50% or more dieing during the passage. This compelling image called to him to do something and eighteen years after beginning his abolitionist urgings in the British Parliament, the practice was abandoned. Wilberforce was deeply moved by his convictions. So deeply moved that he could not avoid his calling - a calling that freed him for service to his country and humanity.

Shadyside Presbyterian Church has one of the most amazing ministers I've ever heard and we go to see Dr. Craig Barnes every chance we get. This Sunday's sermon was "The Mysterious Liberator," based on Exodus 20: 1-6. The essence is that he used the story of the Hebrew people's wandering in the desert as a way to look at the things with which we struggle in life. He explained that there was actually a well-traveled and easy "highway" to the promised land that Moses could have taken. Instead, he chose the difficult path, the one that subjected the Hebrews to difficult environmental conditions, which in turn exposed their weakness in the face of adversity. The sermon is far more profound than I can portray here so I hope that you'll access it via the Shadyside web site. After this wonderful sermon, Dr. Barnes closed the service with the benediction, "Seek not only to understand what you are freed from but also what you are freed for..." This brief statement hit me like a ton of bricks and it connected the entire weekend.

Michael Fosberg - freed from his own conventional cultural beliefs but freed to educate, to enjoy life, and to be loved by his father. William Wilberforce - freed for service to his fellow citizens and to humanity. Neither of these characters had it easy. They struggled and they worked diligently to find their place in the world. However, by being willing to take the more difficult, the more challenging, and the forging path, they (and many others each and every day) are freed for...

Question to self - What am I most waiting to be freed to do?

3 comments:

Darbi & Georgia said...

Dad - Nice post. I really liked the integration of the weekend's experiences. It was a blessing to be able to go through these experiences with you and Mom!

Regarding the question of what I'm most waiting to be freed to do... I think this year has been just that for me. You commented this weekend on the fact that Carnegie has, instead of given me focus, disrupted my life to a large extent in terms of what I feel called to do in life. This year - my experiences with PLACE, my experiences as a coach, the opportunities to go abroad to conferences and to take new classes - have not focused my passions but rather freed me from the pigeon-holed life I thought I was to leave. It's freed me from thinking about my future conventionally and from feeling like I need to go about the rest of my life in a particular way in order to end up in a place I've made up in my mind as somewhere I want to be (when in fact that's not the case at all). I've been freed for the earnest pursuit of true meaning in the next step of my life, and that means all the world to me. So thank you, Carnegie Mellon (and of course God) for screwing up my plans! I'm afraid to think of where I'd be now and where I'd be heading if that hadn't happened...

Darbi & Georgia said...

ooops... the darbi & georgia is from my gmail account... it's just me!

Denny Roberts said...

What a wonderful post - even if you are of the same genetic stock. It's incredible to see such a direct application of "freedom for..."

It's interesting that that you talk of your 5th-year at Carnegie Mellon as disrupting your thinking and you thank Carnegie Mellon and God for "screwing up your plans!" This really gets to the essence of deeper learning in leadership - it is those times when we take the more difficult path and we open ourselves to seeing things as we have never seen them before. Disruptive experiences coupled with reflection can provide opportunity for transformation.

Love ya,
Dad