Americans have tossed around the word freedom for almost 240 years. Freedom was one of the reasons for our country’s birth. We’re supposed to be “the land of the free…” Freedom is so important that good people die for it.

How does that translate to my current environment? Obviously prison is a place where freedom is intentionally limited. However, the reality is that Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp at any given moment is never that bad. I’ve been in church ministry conferences that were far worse and seemed longer. It’s only bad because an external authority requires, no demands, that I must stay here. Certainly that is a freedom limitation, but compared to what?

From 2004-2013, I lived my life as if I were riding on the back of a gigantic bear. I thought that if I attempted to jump off, the bear would devour me. I didn’t think I could tell anyone, so nobody knew. How free is that?

Two years ago, I got off the bear’s back. He chewed me up badly, but he didn’t eat me. It was a treacherous first and painful step on what is hopefully a road toward freedom.

There is a line in the book about the life of noted psychiatrist Carl Jung, Jung’s Map of the Soul, that seems to be written to me. Dr. Murray Stein, the author, pens, “one is as enslaved to one’s own character structure and inner demons as to external authority.” For most of my life I’ve been my “own worst enemy, my harshest critic and severest taskmaster.” This may seem weird, but I am more free now than I was from 2004-2013, just sleeping on a much less comfortable bed, not eating as well and marooned here for a while.

I think the apostle Paul understood his own freedom when he writes in the book of Romans, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate…I want to do what is right but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t.”

We all know that nobody is totally free. We negotiate our own freedom with ourselves and with life. Sometimes we end up on the short end of the negotiations. Surely freedom is more than, as Kris Kristofferson wrote and Janis Joplin sang is 1971, “just another word for nothing else to lose,” or is it?

The more I think about it, Kris and Janis may have been onto something.