A wonderful concept, to be free, actually uninhibited by anything or anyone. Dream with me…………..a canteen of coffee with just the right amounts of sugar and cream, under a tree in a warm meadow, with no one to bother, a great book, and several soft pillows. Hmmm.
Is that real freedom? Why do I often perceive freedom to be a place other than where I am right now?
I think for a lot of us, it is just a need for a tiny short little break. Not a huge long vacation, no days away, no serious separation from our lives. First of all, everyone needs us, and no one can do what we do nearly as well. We just need a few minutes alone. Maybe sixty….five…..minutes…..Okay maybe a few hours…..that would be excellent right, Moms and Dads?! Just a bit of time to decompress and relax, to kind of take a breath and roll the shoulders back and get a glass of water. A minute to think. A time of rest. I know you know.
Upon reading more Father Jacques Phillipe I have come to understand a little bit more of what he means when he says Freedom. It is easy to suppose what certain words mean in our language, because so many of our words were borrowed from other languages, and we use them so randomly, it’s as if we start to use a word and then wait to see what it becomes. This is an area of great fascination for me, but instead of boring you with semantics, let me share with you the many uses (although improper) of the word freedom…..
Freedom, Father Jacques says, can be in our mind a synonym for “independence” like we should be free darn-it, and that’s why no one should ever tell us what to do, because we are completely autonomous, and able to handle everything on our own. Therefore rules, of any kind must be in complete conflict with freedom. Not so. We must receive from others and recognize a certain mount of dependence. No one can be complete by themselves. we can only completely be ourselves within a spiritual family (a covenant bond of love and faithfulness). The more we lose our life in God, and trust Him, the more our heart widens and opens, and makes us free. It’s right there in the Gospel: ” Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) The amazing lives of the saints prove this to be true. They unabashedly threw themselves into the mercy of God, and most often literally DID lose their life, but the extreme joy that accompanied their suffering would be unexplainable with out this concept of freedom.
Father Jacques continues to explain the mistakes we make about freedom in his mind exploding book, Interior Freedom, which you should try to get a copy of, since my paraphrasing here can hardly do it justice! Sometimes we think that freedom is something external. We feel that our freedom is limited by our circumstances, physical, or health limitations, obligations that we have, etc. We somehow believe that if these current fences were just chopped down, we would be certainly and truly free. But what we often find is there are rows upon rows of fences, and they are never ALL going to be taken down simultaneously. We have to be willing to over come some limitations, yes, absolutely, but we also need to try to accept things the way they are sometimes too. Father Jacques believes that most men and women today desire freedom that is manifested as a desperate attempt to overcome limitations. People want to go farther, faster, to have a greater power to transform reality. For instance, people think they will be freer when they can choose the sex of their children, or in other ways that they can surpass their own capabilities. Talk to famous bicyclist, Lance Armstrong about this one. He wanted so badly to win, he was willing to cheat with scientific advances, in order to win. Not content with doing ordinary things, we become suicidal in our efforts. Think extreme sports, or the folks who follow dangerous animals and someday get too close, only to be killed in the process (ever watched the Grizzly Man?) . How many young people have been killed by excess drugs or alcohol? They aspired to freedom, but never learned the right way to do it. This does not mean that we should aspire to a dull and boring life. But we do need to stretch out minds to discover genuine freedom in a close relationship with God.
If you doubt that you can do this, that too many difficult things have happened, or that you have “move passed that phase of trusting in a supreme being…” I urge you to look into the lives of people who have lived before us, and found the freedom we are trying to describe. St. Therese is a wonderful example given her “little provincial Carmelite convent, not outstanding for it’s architecture; a minuscule garden; a small community composed of religious sisters whose upbringing, education, and manners often left much to be desired; a climate where the sun shines very little….and she spent such a short time in the convent: 10 years!” But if you read her writing you would never guess all that because of her inner life. She uses terminology which is the opposite of her narrow tiny world. “Infinite horizons,” “immense desires,” “oceans of graces,” “abyss of love,” and “torrents of mercy!” It is quite telling that these expressions came out in her situation, in her suffering, the monotony of sacrifice that she endured. It makes me want to really think hard about the sacrifices I make for my children, and how they will hopefully play out in the future, the glory of the Lord will be revealed!
Freedom can also be confused with power to change things to our own desires, with every domain that we can have power in the more free we become. There may be situations that we can not change, and we feel powerless. Even when we feel powerless we can still grow, and have acceptance and faith in God. Father Jacques points out that being free also means consenting to what we did not choose. This is such a tough one. When we can accept our reality day after day, trusting God to help us through it, no matter how difficult or painful it can become, this is FREEDOM. It is a natural human tendency to hate what we can not control, but there is the paradox, “to be truly free we must accept that we can not always be free!” We must train ourselves to accept peacefully and willingly plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom.
Lastly, there is this idea that freedom is spontaneous. “I can go where I want when I want, this is from my own heart.” God wants us to renew and purify our heart so we can have His law upon our heart, so when we “follow our heart,” it is truly God who is leading us. Becoming perfectly free is to be purified and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It takes time, and healing, and conversion to listen to our heart with the Spirit leading us. Too often it’s our wounded psychology and fears that lead us. If we live simply for our desires it can be catastrophic. Do not live in a disaster. INSTEAD, ACCEPT THE WHOLE JOURNEY OF PURIFICATION LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
How can we find solutions these problems?
It helps to link freedom with love, Father Jacques says. There is no true freedom without love. Also, there is no freedom outside of love. Love has need of freedom – which is why God respects our freedom…..He wants our love! He wants to be sought out freely.
We can lose our freedom, we can become a prisoner to our passions. Here is the order we want:
The more we learn to love the more we are free.
I think it goes without saying that parenthood is a very easy way to learn this lesson. But I also know from experience that we only receive the lesson if we let it in. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in our work. Really delve in and let it consume you, and let it blow open your narrow ideas of children and home and what. it. is. It is a very special opportunity you have to be a mom or dad… and no one else ever will have the chance to be a parent to your specific children. So make it count, and take those hours off to find the space and love and freedom to be where you are, and do it with thoughtfulness. It may not be easy, but it’s up to you, When you make your new years resolutions, take the time to search your heart and ask God, “when am I not truly free?”
I am right there with you.
Blessings on your twenty fourteen, on your families, your relationships! May He strengthen your marriages, renew your love for your children, and give you the faith and hope to do what you should do, and find value in it. Amen.