In our last visit, I introduced a definition of “freedom,” courtesy of Bishop Robert Barron: “the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible, then effortless.”
Let’s dig deeper, beginning with the disciplining of desire.
In itself, desire isn’t a negative feeling, as we can desire many good and worthy things. I can desire to be a good grandfather for my girls, or a positive influence within my parish and community. No offense to Gatlinburg, but I desire to return to Florida once vacation time rolls back around.
The object being desired is important, though. A life can get off-kilter quickly if someone desires more money or power or pleasure and does whatever is necessary to achieve it, no matter the cost. Addictions are born easily from this descent, as well as a “me-first” attitude which works against the idea of freedom we are considering.
It is therefore wise to discipline desire, not eliminating it but reigning it in, preventing desire from becoming more important than our top reason for being here. Recall the words of Joshua to the people of Israel:
“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve. . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).”
Serving the Lord is, and must remain, our number one priority. How that comes about on a day-to-day basis will vary, depending upon individual situations and God-given skills, but the bottom line remains the same. God must come first before personal desires.
And we again can see how a self-centered idea of freedom, of doing what I want when I want, simply cannot work as a guiding principle for the life of a believer.
All this should not lead someone to believe that a committed believer will never know pleasure, or see some personal desires fulfilled. The key is to, through humble faith, allow such things to be part of God’s plan for our lives, and not our own. If He deems it good that certain wishes of ours be fulfilled, it will happen at a time of His choosing. If not, a believer will accept that He knows best and carry on with his/her life.
Another phrase within our definition of freedom needs attention next time, that being “the achievement of the good.”
May God bless us all.