The Freedom of Love
by Mary Kliewer
In a "Life" magazine this year we were told the amazing story of Abigail and Brittany Hensel. They were born as conjoined twins - products of a single egg that for some unknown reason failed to divide fully into identical twins. The twins' particular condition, known as dicephalus, is very rare. No more than four sets of surviving twins in recorded history have shared an undivided torso and two legs.
"Each of the Hensel twins has her own heart and stomach, but together they rely on three lungs. Their spines join at the pelvis, and below the waist they have the organs of a single person. Each controls the limbs and trunk, and feels sensations, on her side exclusively; if you tickle the ribs on the right, only Abby giggles. Yet the girls manage - no one knows exactly how - to move as one being.
"Bound to each other but defiantly independent, these six year old girls are a living textbook on camaraderie and compromise, on dignity and flexibility, on the subtler varieties of freedom." These two girls forced by birth to be more firmly united than any of us will ever be by choice have much to teach us about living together. Their temperaments have been different since infancy, yet the benefits of knowing each other's personal life and ways is something they have grasped more quickly than their peers.
Obviously these girls have much to gain in living in harmony with each other - but don't we all? Teamwork and unity is a concept they have had to grasp quickly. "When they can't agree on where to go - a rare occurrence - they literally cannot move. When one misbehaves, both are sent to their room." Their father pointed out how much they watch out for each other now. Despite overwhelming obstacles they have shown how important respecting each other's dignity and individuality is without allowing selfishness to overide the necessity and beauty of unity.
In the professional business communities of Christian Corps International (CCI) we have quickly discovered the importance of what these twins have grasped - that joy, harmony and peace in living together can only come when we are willing to guard each man's dignity and set aside our own selfish pride. In learning the vital lessons of true love, ("love does not insist on its own way") in a willingness to give and take in the interests of each other, thus learning to respect each other, we have often experienced the wonder of greater freedom in our relationships with each other. This kind of freedom comes when there is a willingness to exercise self-restraint.
A joyful willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to exercise self restraint will create a bond of trust and faith in each other that has rewards that far exceed the momentary sacrifice made. It is living in this atmosphere that gives each one of us the greatest potential to be and to develop into all the fullness of life. The joy of learning to live in this true love not only brings great personal pleasure to life but in return draws out the best in each of us - personalities learning to be free of selfishness. It opens up for each of us the opportunity to see life and the world in new expanding ways that we would never discover if we chose to always insist on our own ways.
The opposite is not hard to imagine. Living self-centred lives quickly brings bitterness and hatred into our hearts when others do not give in to our selfish demands. It often does not take long when the world feels as if it is closing in. Many today are facing this reality and find that the only way to cope and face life is to withdraw from others in a defiance that cries out "I don't need you". Soon their world becomes smaller and smaller and the only joys they can find are from material things or other methods that give a temporary "feel" of so called happiness.
The good news is that the opposite is possible but we each have to make the choice. No one can force it on us for love is a gift freely given or it is not love. Each one of us has the ability to choose how we want to live with our fellowman.
Love is patient and kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong,
but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
1 Cor. 13:4-7
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