Freedom can be daunting...which is why we so often seek to escape it.
This is especially true when we are preoccupied with negative freedom and essentially unconcerned with positive freedom. 'Negative freedom' is 'freedom from' and 'positive freedom' is 'freedom for.' For example, if our focus is on being freed from the burdens of external demands of our day to day lives (of our jobs, of our obligations as parents, of our obligations to parents, etc) and yet we have no real sense of what we want to be free for, we are going to be ill equipped to experience freedom as life-giving and generative. More than likely, when we find ourselves freed from certain "burdens" we will simply substitute new burdens that will alleviate the anxiety of our new found freedom!
How often have we seen folks as they age experience their freedom from external demands and responsibilities as a cause for despair? If we spend our lives unconcerned about what it is we are meant to be free for, the inevitable freedom from external demands will be daunting indeed.
Sister Joan writes of how the "freedom from" that that comes with age can be an exhilarating discovery of what we are "free for." "Finally, I am now free to become involved in life in ways I never did before when all the directions were clear and all the expectations binding and all the responsibilities defined. Now is the time to think it all through again. Everything, God, life, work, relationships, behaviors, goals. I am free now to measure all of them against my experience, to reshape them out of my new knowledge, to try things wherever my new spiritual energy leads me, to add new ideas to the old ideas that have controlled my life for so long."
Amen to that! But this I would add (and I think Sister Joan would agree): if the freedom that comes with aging is to be experienced as the exhilarating discovery she describes, it is essential that we live into that freedom all along the way. If we opt to live our lives within the four walls of necessity, when we walk free of that we will more than likely build new walls to escape our freedom. Act freely now. Don't put it off. Make time for a kind of doing that is not required by the day to day demands and responsibilities that you must attend to.
How often have you decided to do something for its own sake, something you have wanted to do for a long time but you never felt you had the time or bandwidth to do it? How often have you actually done it and, looking back, you say to yourself, "Why didn't I do this sooner? Why was I so convinced that it was impossible to take this up?" That's what positive freedom feels like. Don't lose your feel for that. Of course we never get entirely free from external demands and responsibilities. But if we cultivate a sense for what we yearn to be free for and exercise that freedom, living in relation to those demands and responsibilities will never become an escape from our true freedom.
I'll let Jesus have the final word, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8: 32)