“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV). In order to enter our fourth decade at the top of our health game, my husband and I chose to take healthy eating to new levels. I wrote about it here. I found myself surprised and excited to discover new foods I had deprived myself of for years. I celebrated growth as I exhibited self-control even beyond food as God opened my eyes to other areas that needed more control. A new energy and alertness characterized my days, and I felt more alive than I’d felt in years. To begin our healthy eating journey, we created a list of food do’s and don’ts. At that time I didn’t struggle with the “don’t” list because I discovered so many new foods on the “do” list I had never explored. I maintained focus on my freedom to try new things, which led to a surprised delight at my new discoveries. Fast forward a few months when I had some blood work drawn which revealed my body was reacting to the new foods I was consuming. Fruits and vegetables that should bring wholeness to my body were causing me harm. The doctor explained that my immune system was in a constant state of alert and fight, and if I didn’t eliminate these foods, the good and the bad, for a time period and allow my immune system to rest, I could face damage to my body down the road. Something was happening in the unseen world of my body. This new list of off-limit foods given to me by the doctor took center stage. A spotlight shone down on these foods, casting dark shadows on all those I had complete freedom to continue to enjoy. Some of the food options I chose to eliminate originally, I now felt I had no choice but to eliminate. Losing my freedom changed my focus. I felt my “don’t” list had been snatched from my control, at which point everything changed. No longer was I the deciding factor on what I couldn’t have. Now someone else was telling me I must stay away if I wanted to preserve my long-term health. My entire perspective on healthy eating, my entire mindset, my attitude - everything changed. When I felt I lost my freedom to choose, I lost my perspective on what was best for me. I began craving those things I knew better than to crave. I lost all excitement for the new-found healthy items I could eat, and I focused hard on the foods I’d originally chosen to say no to, now seemingly forced to say no to. I began craving what I couldn’t have because I felt I didn’t have the freedom to say no any longer. Through this experience, God shone His light in my heart on the gift of freedom He bestows to me daily. A gift I fear I’ve taken for granted most of my Christian life. A gift that is beyond full understanding and will never be appreciated to the extent it deserves. Focusing on what we can’t have rather than what we can is nothing new. God gave everything to Adam and Eve and told them to stay away from just one thing. They focused on the one no, perspective lost, cravings grew. Temptation overcame self-control. We know the rest of the story. From the very beginning, God gave us the gift of choice. The gift of choosing those things which bring life. When our eyes are fixed on Him, we see the gift in all the times He’s said yes. We crave not the times He has said no. When we shift our focus off of God, the things of this world appear shinier and brighter. They tempt us and beckon us to let it all go, forget self-control, have our way, and be happy. But it’s a lie. The world would have us believe we’ve lost our freedom; therefore, we must fight to maintain control. God whispers back, “I’m Truth. Listen to Me.” God, full of love, compassion, and mercy, extends His hand to us. He desires we come to Him, but He won’t force us. He gives us the freedom to choose Him. When we are His, His freedoms don’t end. He continues gifting us freedom after freedom. God created freedom. He is the God of freedom. He gives us the freedom to choose Him, the freedom to obey Him, and the freedom to trust Him. Sometimes we lose sight of that gift. Aside from salvation, freedom is pretty high on my list of favorite gifts the Lord has granted us. It’s the gift I tend to forget is given to us each day. It’s the thing that made me first fall so madly in love with Him. It’s the gift that when I realized He was chasing me, pursuing my heart, made me turn and run into His arms. It’s the gift that daily says, “Obey Me, I won’t force you, but love and trust Me enough to obey. It’s for your good, but the freedom is in your hands.” His freedom whispers, “I love you.” His freedom says, “Choose to follow the path I’ve laid for you.” His freedom says, “Keep your eyes fixed on Me.” His freedom reminds me while I’m free in Him, nothing in this world has the freedom to take me from His hand. Freedom. A gift from God because He loves us with a love unimaginable. That reminder completes my heart and brings me right back into His loving arms. I’m free to run into those arms. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do more than sit in His embrace. It’s the only place we find true freedom. The choice is ours.