Freedom Through Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Let me be a Woman,” published in 1976.
AS I SIT here in the window of this cottage I can see a sailboat skimming silently along the horizon. It is a beautiful, image of freedom. But the freedom of the sailboat to move so swiftly and beautifully is the result of obedience to laws. The builder of the boat had to know the proper ratio of beam to keel and mast. The one who sails the boat obeys the rules of sailing. A ship tacking against the wind moves deviously, but when she runs with a strong tide or a following wind she takes, to herself the power of tide and wind and they become her own. She is doing the thing she was made for. She is free not by disobeying the rules but by obeying them.
Modern highways are often called freeways, but how much freedom of movement would there be if each driver were encouraged to choose any lane, any speed, any direction that happened to appeal to his fancy at the moment?
I noticed on Boston Common a sign saving “Please,” which the public was expected to understand was short for “Please keep off the grass.” Almost everybody had obeyed that sign and that’s why there was still some grass. But there were a few people sitting on the grass in defiance of the sign. Their freedom to sit on grass instead of on bare dirt was dependent on the majority’s having denied themselves the privilege. The majority had made the choice to allow grass to grow. This choice meant restriction, a willingness to limit themselves to the walks. It meant not doing what they wanted to do in order to have something they wanted more. The freedom of the few was bought at the sacrifice of the many.
You and I have talked about college students’ idea of freedom in dormitories. They don’t want lights-out rules or coming-in rules or quiet rules. Consequently, this freedom of theirs to keep the lights on till all hours, to stay out most of the night, and to play records at 3 A. M. means that there’s no freedom to sleep, there’s not even the freedom to study, which means that students are no longer free to he students, the very thing they’ve come to college and paid fifteen thousand dollars to be.
This is the crux of the question of liberty and liberation. Does it mean casting off all restrictions? (Could a ship sail without them?) Does it mean doing what we feel like doing and not doing what we don’t? It means discipline. It means doing the thing we were meant for. What is it to which we are called, we women under God? [41-42]