glider illustration
glider illustration

Freedom and Happiness

I attended college at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. It sits on top of a mountain in Middle Tennessee. It is a beautiful place.

When I was a student, there was a local physician who owned a glider. I knew about this because he would get my roommate to help him launch the plane. They would go to the small, local airport and Fred, my roommate, would pull the plane down the runway in an old station wagon. They would have to get the speed up to 90 miles per hour, and then the doctor would release the cable and the plane would take off. It was almost the perfect picture of freedom, as it silently soared over the mountain. At times, on a sunny day, I would be walking on campus and this shadow would flash over me. But there was no sound. It was the glider plane, a picture of beauty that seemed to be flying effortlessly and free …

If you put it in the water, it would sink

But why is the glider plane able to soar? It seems to have no restrictions. In reality, it is not because of a lack of restrictions, it is because the plane is honoring the aerodynamic realities of air currents. It was built for air currents, which is the environment in which it soars. If you put it in the water, it would sink. Freedom is not a lack of restriction, it is finding the right restrictions that fit your being and lead to harmony, peace and joy in your life.

One of the best ways to understand freedom and restrictions is to consider the game of football, which for so many Americans is an incredibly enjoyable sport to play and watch as a spectator. The game of football is governed by rules, and for the sake of this illustration we are going to call the rules the “Law of the Game.” It is the “Law of the Game” that makes the game and gives it order. The game makes no sense without the “Law of the Game.”

They made these changes to the “Law of the Game” in the name of freedom

One day, those on the committee who make the rules are pressured by modern thinkers to make some changes. They are told the rules are too restrictive and the players need more freedom to do what they do best. They truly believe it would make the game more exciting and enjoyable for both the players and the fans. So they enacted three changes to the “Law of the Game.” First, since it is so difficult to determine whether a face mask penalty is intentional or unintentional, they just did away with the penalty. Face masks can now be grabbed. Second, since so many holding calls are hard to detect and are often missed by referees, they decided to do away with holding penalties. Anyone can now hold anyplace and anytime. Finally, to try and get more excitement into the return game, they enacted a rule that allows one to block in the back on kickoff and punt returns. They made these changes to the “Law of the Game” in the name of freedom. It would bring more enjoyment and pleasure to the game.

Now, if you know and understand the game of football, you know that removing these restrictions would lead to an incredible number of injuries. But more significantly, the game would devolve into chaos. This is what happens when you have freedom with no restrictions. This explains why people’s lives are so chaotic, in a culture that is so free. And it explains all the unhappiness in our land.

You can be as free and creative as your heart desires

If you go back to the parable, and think about the game of football, what makes the game so enjoyable is that you have certain restrictions. You have to have the law of the game and you have to have obedience to the law. However, within the “Law of the Game” there is great freedom. You can run whatever scheme you desire. On offense you can be conservative, or run a hurry up no huddle offense. You can go for it on fourth down, or not. You can run trick plays. Defensively, you can run any type of defense. You can blitz, you can run a 3-4 or a 4-3. Ultimately, you can be as free and creative as your heart desires, but only within the “Law of the Game.” But this is what gives the game order, and provides such enjoyment to the players and fans.

This is how God designed life to work. Freedom with no restrictions will cause us to crash and burn. Freedom within God’s law, the law that was given to us by the one who designed us, will lead to peace, order and harmony. It is a key to finding happiness.


Add grace and understanding to your day with words from Richard E. Simmons III in your inbox. Sign-up for weekly email with the latest blog post, podcast, and quote.

Fill out the form to receive wisdom in your inbox from Richard E. Simmons III.