freedom and commitment

"The wind blows where it will" is a pretty good description of the way Jesus lived, but if we try to follow his example we'll soon be confronted with a serious question. The question of commitment. If we try to live a life characterized by the freedom of the Spirit, unbounded and unattached to things or organizations, people begin wondering (often out loud) if we are "free spirits," if we are unable to settle down, or afraid to commit. I remember an experience on the road several years ago:

When I was almost to town, a van pulled up, an older couple who had passed me more than once over the last few days. We talked a little, then it came out that they were Mormons. They went into full proselytizing mode, so I couldn't say much except a general objection against institutional religion and denominationalism. Then [because I wouldn't limit myself to one denomination] he says, "Well, when you decide to get serious..."

I burst out laughing. More serious?!
At the time, I couldn't imagine being more committed and serious about the spiritual life than I was then. But people have different perceptions of commitment. And these become even more important when the possibility of marriage arises, or involvement with groups that expect long-term commitments. These are the situations I'm facing right now.

I can't help but think, though, that there is no actual conflict between commitment and Jesus' freedom of spirit—at least commitment in the best sense. Real love involves the strongest commitment to another person, a commitment that never ends, that "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." And Jesus lived a real love for everyone he encountered. Yet at the same time his life was as unpredictable and un-nail-down-able as the wind.

(And they certainly tried to nail him down.)

I can see that some commitments do necessarily limit our freedom to move with the Spirit, and there are biblical warnings about commitments that can restrict our ability to follow Jesus completely. But these commitments can't be the commitment of love. Because following Jesus with complete abandon is what love really means, and this is the deepest commitment—and fullest freedom—we can ever know.