In college I was constantly asked these questions: What’s your major? What are you planning on doing with (said) major after you graduate? Did you know you wanted to major in that subject? Over time the questions became quite annoying, and I began shape and form an answer that I could easily go back to. Now, as the end of the Nashville Fellows Program is rapidly approaching, I find myself being asked similar questions from others and myself. These questions are somewhat different than the ones I heard when in college: What are the plans for you after Fellows? Do you see yourself staying in Nashville indefinitely? What is the best/worst part of the Fellows Program? What have you taken away from this program? Like I said before, I have developed a couple of answers for these questions that would give people what they are looking for, and stop them from asking any other familiar questions.

It came to a point sometime in the last month or two where I started questioning the answers I had prepared for these questions. Was this really what I wanted, or was it something that I was told I wanted? Is this my decision, or a decision that was influenced by others?  I soon began to realize that most of my thoughts and opinions were formed based on other people’s views, beliefs, judgments, and testimonials.

1 Corinthians 9:19 perfectly explains my thought process on freedom: “though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” I have the freedom to be who I am, made in Christ, but instead I have trapped myself into a world filled with others’ opinions. On some of the topics that we have discussed in class I never realized that I had an opinion or thought about a concept because I had never allowed myself time to form my own beliefs, opinions, and decisions. I had let others make and form these decisions and opinions for me.

Most of the time we have the freedom to do anything we want, say anything we want, be anything we want. There is no one telling us what to do, how to be, or who we should be - that decision is for us to decide. Those decisions can also become the evil in our lives. 1 Peter 2:16 says “live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” Through our freedom, we have become slaves to earthly desires: money, time, work, social status, physical comparisons, and controversial thoughts and opinions. We take what God gave us through his son Jesus dying on the cross, and we put our freedom into something that is not sustainable and that does not define us. Galatians 5: 1 states “it is our freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We are slaves to Christ, and we are sent to do his work in this broken world. Instead of using our freedom to find things to chain us down, we should allow God to help us stand on solid ground.

What do I say when I hear these questions now? My answer is never the same, because I am constantly learning something new about myself in God’s eyes. I am free to be me in the image of God. Every single part of this program has played a part in allowing me to see myself as a child of God. It is still a challenge to tear down the foundations of slavery that I have built for myself, but knowing that I can stand firm in the love of Christ gives me hope not just myself, but for our broken world as well.