How Do You Define Freedom?




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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

What is freedom?

At first, you might think that’s kind of an easy answer, but the reality is that if you talk to 10 different people & ask them the same question – chances are you’ll get 10 different answers. 

The reality is that I don’t believe true freedom is so easily defined. 

You won’t find a comprehensive definition for it in any dictionary because at the end of the day, I believe true freedom is something you have to experience.

If you need a definition of freedom, I think you’ll find the best one in the Bible.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “I have come that you may have life and have it in all its fullness.” 

Life in all it’s fullness.

Yea, that’s freedom.

That’s what we all want.

But the question is, even though Jesus promises us freedom, even though he says that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, why do so many of us feel like we are anything but free?

Why do so many of us feel crushed by our unwanted sexual behaviors?

Why are you reading this post right now?

Maybe it’s because you want that fullness of life Jesus talks about.

You want real freedom.
You’re tired of the grind.

But again, it’s hard for me to define what “real freedom” looks like because it’s something you actually have to experience.

So maybe I can paint you a picture for you instead?

A couple of years ago I got a tattoo of a koi fish swimming downstream. 

I got the tattoo because I wanted to celebrate my decade of freedom from porn addiction.

But why a koi? What’s the deal?


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Well, you see the koi in Japanese art has tremendous symbolism, but the meaning of the tattoo depends entirely on how the koi is represented. 

A koi swimming upstream is symbolic of somebody who is facing struggles on a daily basis, but has the power or the strength to overcome them. 

In other words, they’re in a constant fight, but they’re constantly winning.

On the other hand, a koi swimming downstream typically represents someone who’s facing struggles and doesn’t have the strength now to overcome them. So they’re always getting swept away in the strong current of their troubles and challenges.

Perhaps you feel that way right now?

But here’s the thing that got me…

A koi swimming downstream can also symbolize a person who has overcome struggles in their life and has arrived at a place where they no longer need to fight. 

In other words, the battle has been won and the carnage of that war has been left behind in the past where it belongs. 

And you know, when I look at my life and my past battle with porn addiction, I have to say, I resonate more with the koi who’s swimming downstream than the one swimming upstream.

Because, you see… 

When it comes to my struggle with porn, I no longer feel like I’m in a daily war. I don’t feel like I’m constantly under siege. I’m not that koi fish struggling every day to make my way upstream… gasping for air, trying to jump from one pool of water to the next, fighting to survive for just another day.

Yes, I am well aware I live in a very sexually saturated world that is always trying to peddle its best offerings to me hoping that I one day will return to my old ways of brokenness and shame.

Yes. The battle rages on, I suppose… 

But I just keep swimming downstream.

I don’t have to wage that war anymore.

And I believe that’s the type of freedom Jesus wants us all to experience.

That’s what he means by living a full life and that’s what I want for you. 

Yea, life certainly has its ups and downs, its trials and tribulations, but that’s a normal part of human existence.  We don’t need to feel like we are in a constant fight against these things.

Rather we need to embrace these challenges because at the end of the day, they will make us stronger & better. 

Trust me, 10 years ago, I would have told you there was no way I’d ever be free from porn, but today I write to you a decade later saying, yes, it’s completely attainable, and I am living it. 

I am experiencing it.

And I’m confident that if you set out on a journey of recovery, you can experience that same freedom too.

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