Me And A Cheesecake
I was staring longingly at a cheesecake platter that was sitting in my refrigerator when I thought to myself, “I should follow my heart and do what I want!” All the while I knew that what I wanted was not really good for me. I ate that entire cheesecake platter, and in my coma of gluttony, I pondered all the times I actually consented to my appetite, thinking that in doing so I was somehow free.
But freedom is not as I imagined. It’s not succumbing to your every whim and doing as you please. It’s not living out the mantra, “treat yourself!” and indulging. Freedom is often the more difficult decision, the decision to set yourself free from your lesser will and appetite. Freedom requires discipline, reason, and higher truth.
If we don’t pursue self-knowledge or cultivate good and true things in our hearts then we are not much more than a slave to our lesser selves. Cheesecakes aside, I often see this in small ways throughout my day. My best days, the ones that are joyfully united to my vocation, are not what I would always choose if I were left to my own devices. Being a wife, a mother, and a homemaker has opened my eyes more deeply to true freedom.
If I did not have to take care of the kids, fold the laundry, or clean the kitchen, I most certainly wouldn’t. I would binge watch Netflix while scrolling on social media or online shopping. And I would have called that freedom in a past life. Over the years I have wrestled greatly with my own nature. I have resented certain aspects of motherhood because I felt they were an impediment to my freedom. And of course, the world does not help with this vision – always telling mothers what they are missing out on, telling women not to have children because they’ll lose their freedom. That is a terrible idea to be putting into peoples heads!
“You need to travel the world, go out with friends, focus on your career.”
In short, you need to do what you want. But, this idea sells us short. The truth is that the freedom to do as we please inhibits our greater freedom to do as we ought. God calls us all in unique directions but it will always require sacrifice, most assuredly, sacrifice of our lesser selves – the self that settles for instant gratification and pleasure.
I have often found myself mindlessly ignoring my whining children by scrolling social media and/or online shopping. Those days are the worst. I find myself most frustrated at my children and in the evening I am filled with the aching feeling of a day that has passed into oblivion without the slightest bit of productivity or even love. It feels miserable to spend the day entertaining myself instead of fulfilling my duties.
The thing that brings my days most joy and fulfillment is honestly to do what I ought. Doing what my vocation demands of me. Loving my children with undivided attention, cleaning different areas of my home, and attending to my work diligently. When I use my day serving others, offering my time in prayer, and accomplishing small tasks I feel truly energized.
Freedom is a choice we make when we do the right thing. It is the choice to live our lives with purpose, not neglecting even the smallest details. True freedom is actually difficult to obtain because we are prone to getting in our own way. When we make the more difficult but right decision we are slowly set free.
This is why the way of family life is so sanctifying. In serving my family, choosing to use my time in productive ways, and molding my heart and habits through discipline, I am slowly set free. Free from what exactly? Free from self.
And maybe the more difficult part of this ever-evolving discovery of freedom is that sometimes it requires sacrificing something that is good for an even greater good, an even greater freedom.
This past Lent I heard someone say (Bishop Barron?) that Jesus, nailed to the cross, completely surrendered to God’s will, is the greatest example of true freedom. Let that sink in for a minute.
The world tells you you are free to live casually, to kill your unborn child, to drink yourself silly and sleep around, and many other “freedoms” it dangles carelessly in your face. But it forgets to mention that these freedoms are not without consequence. It makes a push to quiet your conscience, to numb your mind, and ultimately, entangle you in a slavery so severe you no longer realize what is happening. All the while, you run around calling yourself free.