Some people wonder what it must be like to have freedom taken away. That's all they can do is wonder. These people are the ones who often joke about the confining conditions of being married or having young kids. Also coming from this group are the ones who think people in jail have it too easy. Being incarcerated in this country is an easy way out, and that's why the returning rate for convicts is close to 70 percent.
Some people flippantly say things like 'What would I ever do without my cell phone?' or 'I'd die without the internet!' Also coming from this group are the people who are absolutely lost when the power goes off at their house for a few hours during 'prime time.' They wander through the house looking for candles and flipping light switches as they move from room to room in a futile gesture of habit.
Some people have never known a life of even slight inconveniences like living in the outdoors with no indoor plumbing, being thousands of miles from loved ones with no idea what is happening with them and no means of contacting them, or spending hour after hour in solitude filled with deep longing for genuine companionship on any level.
There are two classes of people who understand all of these things all too intimately, and both are completely by choice. Those who are in our armed forces make sacrifices most people could never relate to or even imagine. Often living with the constant stress of looming dangers, the men and women of our armed forces know inconvenience. Eat what you're given, wear what you're issued, and sleep when you can. It's a life that at times is fast and hard yet swallowed by what seems like endlessly hours of waiting...anticipating.
The other class are our convicts. Walled off from society for a gambit of reasons and intentions too vast to comprehend. Isolated and completely at the mercy of a bureaucratic system bloated with incompetence and apathy. Eat what you're given, wear what you're issued, and sleep until your brain is nothing but a mushy goo. Rehabilitation is just a fancy governmental scapegoat word destined to fail for the vast majority because it can't account for, or help alter, desires of the heart. Only God can do that...and our government is far from God and picking up speed.
Veterans and inmates are two classes of our society that appreciate freedom like no other. Both understand and revel in the smallest things in daily life most take completely for granted. Neither class is made up entirely of the stereotypical traits commonly attributed to their respective populations. Jails are full of good people and military ranks are scattered with bad apples. We tend to paint with broad strokes in our society. Just ask anyone who regularly attends church services who are often pelted unfairly with the hypocrite stones.
Personal freedom is, however, a very tangible commodity and today, more than ever, a true gift...one paid at a price. But having the knowledge that we are free from a finite existence or even worse the infinity of damnation...that truly defines what it is to be free. Breathing the air in that place is most sweet and fills the soul with joy and peace. It's a freedom that can also be known to the veteran as well as the inmate...or by any other grouping or classification we choose to create as human beings.
I will celebrate my freedom this weekend with fireworks, grilled foods and a parade. My heart will swell with pride at being a citizen in the greatest nation on our planet. I will salute our service men and women and pray for our inmates because I know the sacrifices both face. I know because I've been both. While I'm proud of one and humiliated by the other...I'm much wiser for both.
Having said that and fully knowing the sacrifice implied, I would rather spend the rest of my natural life locked in the deepest, darkest hole ever found and still have my personal relationship with Christ than spend a single minute without the freedom He gives me and walk around completely unencumbered.
That is what I am most thankful for this holiday weekend...well, and every other day of the year for that matter.