Whenever I hear Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" I think of a story that was shared with me over a decade ago. It was related to me as a true story, that has led to more than a few healings since I first hear it.
As the story goes, there was a slave who was promoted to the position of valet. He served his confederate, industrialist master faithfully. He was quiet, elegant, and unassuming. When his master would go on business trips, he would travel with him. Because he was a slave, he didn't sleep in the hotels where his master stayed, but remained outside or in quarters provided for servants.
Soon he was traveling the world with his master. On a particularly cold Parisian night, he finished his duties and returned to the entrance of the hotel where his master was staying, expecting to wait till morning for his master's first call. Bundled up at warmly as he could be, he huddled out of the cold in the alleyway next to the hotel.
Soon the doorman wandered over to where he was and asked him what he was doing. He explained that he was a slave and that his master was a guest in the hotel. He went on to say that he would wait there until his master needed him the next day.
The doorman looked at him and said, "Sir, this is Paris. Slavery is illegal here. You are free." The slave, waking up to the reality of his freedom, walked away. He never went back. He accepted his freedom.
You see, slavery was still legal in the United States. But in France, slavery had been abolished in 1794. He was not in a place where laws of slave ownership would be enforced. He was -- quite literally -- a free man in Paris.
How often to we walk around thinking that we are in a "country" that has laws that we are enslaved to, and under the enforceable jurisdiction of? That we live in a body with laws of decay and decline. That we operate in a world where laws of socio-economic privilege and penalty prevail. That we are under the thumb of educational hierarchies and intellectual tyranny?
We stand huddled against the cold wall of a building, thinking we are slaves and that if we were to leave, we would be hunted down, shackled in chains, and imprisoned for life. When in fact, we live, move, and breathe in Him. We are not citizens of a land where "enslavement to the most relentless masters" is enforced, or enforceable.
We are citizens of the kingdom of God. We are free men, women, and children in this safe place where slavery has been abolished. We do not live under the tyranny of laws that say we must subscribe to heredity, caste, class, health-predictions, educational hierarchies, socio-economic predestination.
We are free. We can walk away without looking back. I promise.
Not long ago I was struggling with a physical challenge that seemed to make movement very difficult. I was mentally slammed with all the reasons why this was not only reasonable, but expected -- at my age.
One Saturday, as I started a cleaning project, I put a favorite Joni playlist on my iPod - and yes, I still have one of my daughters' old discarded iPods. The first song that came up was "Free Man in Paris." I immediately thought of the story shared above. At the same moment, I bent down to clean under a table, and felt an all too familiar pain.
But this time I didn't just keep moving through it. Or huddle in the cold light of acceptance next to it. I decided to walk away from it. I was not mortal. I did not live in a "country" where the laws of birth, maturity, decay, death were enforced. I was not trapped in a body that was defined by those laws - or enslaved to them. I was a free woman in the kingdom of God.
Every step, every bend, every swipe of the dust cloth was a step away from the feeling that I was waiting for a false master to tell me where I could go what I could feel, and how I could experience my life.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:
"The enslavement of man is not legitimate.
It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses. Mortals will some day assert their freedom in the name of Almighty God."
We answer to one Sovereign, one Law-giver, who is Love. This Love is omnipotent. There is no opposition to His supreme statutes of freedom and liberty. This is where we live. This is the country of our citizenship.
offered with Love,