Reality is like a fabric. There is a pattern, a design to reality that must be honored or the fabric tears or unravels. The classic illustration is a fish. A fish has two things that make it perfect in water; gills that absorb oxygen from the water, not the air; and fins that move through water, but not on land. The fish must honor its design. It is designed for water, not for land. That is a restriction. If it’s in the wrong environment, if it’s not able to honor the way it fits into the fabric of things, it dies. If it does honor its design, it is free to do all it was designed to do.

What are human beings made for? The clue is to look at how human love works. If you are selfish and you are not married, that is hard. If you are selfish and you are married, it is a disaster. John Stott put it this way, ‘True freedom is to be one’s true self, but my true self is made for loving, and loving is self-giving. So in order to be myself, I have to deny myself and give myself. In order, then, to be free, I have to give up my freedom. In order, then, to live, I have to die to my self-centeredness. In order to find myself, I’ve got to lose it.’

Real freedom is not doing what we most want to do. Real freedom is knowing which of the things we most want to do is siding with what we were designed for. Real freedom is finding the right restrictions, and that is why Jesus says, ‘If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31-32); ‘Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39); ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

– Tim Keller