Eternal Vigilance

Desmond Tutu* has been quoted as saying “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Having heard about some parts of his life, when I first read that quote my mind thought of the oppression he has had to stand up against; and the courage, strength and commitment it must have taken for him to do so with integrity, faith, and eventually, forgiveness. Vigilance almost seems like too timid a word; well, until you put “eternal” in front of it. 

But as the quote settles in to my being, it is leading me to a different type of freedom. I am not thinking about the kind of freedom that quote invokes at first glance – the freedom one enjoys when living in a country unbound by tyranny and totalitarianism.  I am now thinking of a more intense and, what I believe, more valuable type of freedom: the freedom one feels even when in shackles; the freedom one experiences despite persecution; the freedom one knows in the midst of chaos.  And, if I really think about it, I’m guessing Bishop Tutu was probably talking about that exact kind of freedom!

As I think of that type of freedom, and the great ones I have read about who have experienced it, I ask myself this question: What is the eternal vigilance that will take me there? The answer is actually quite simple. It is the attentiveness and care I put into my commitment to growing in relationship with God. It is the daily – no, more than daily – the minute-to-minute connection I seek with God. That is my eternal vigilance – my endless awareness of my dependence on God. In that is where my freedom lies. 

*Happy 90th Birthday, Desmond Tutu! 

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