By: Rachel Herbeck
It took me a little too long to learn that true freedom can be reached only when I embrace discipline in my life. Maybe you just read that sentence and thought, “Umm yeah, that is not a lesson I want to learn!” Hear me out though! When we think of the concept of freedom, I think we automatically think of it in the context of freedom “from” something. We think of freedom from prison or confinement, or in the summer, freedom from school or our normal responsibilities. I want to propose that, at least in this blog, we think together about freedom for good instead of freedom from things that we think confine us.
Freedom and Truth: Choosing What is Right
As you know, as human beings, we aren’t just random particles and atoms thrown together at random. Each one of us is created by God with a purpose and a particular design. Part of that intricate design is that all of us are created to know and live by the truth; not just a truth or any truth, but the truth that we are created by God, to live for God, and to be with Him forever in Heaven. This purpose includes an inherent need for every person to do what is right and good. Saint John Paul II writes, “Christ promised us: ‘You will know the truth and the truth will make you free’ (Jn. 8: 32). We must guard the truth that is the condition of authentic freedom, the truth that allows freedom to be fulfilled in goodness” (Apostolic Journey to the United States of America). Scripture tells us over and over that the ways of the Lord bring prosperity and happiness. In the book of Micah, the prophet writes, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Even the psalmist King David weighs in, praising God saying, “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).
We were created to choose what is right and true, and we know through scripture and revelation that the ways of the Lord are right, just, and life giving. We often think when we get to “do what we want”, we are truly free. But what we want is not always in accord with what is true, good and right. When we make choices that go against the will of God, we are not acting in true freedom, but a false sense of freedom based on the ability to do whatever we want. Saint John Paul II describes this, writing, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought” (John Paul II, Apostolic Journey to the United States of America).
When we choose what is in accordance with the truth, we become freer and in turn, more human, because we are acting in sync with how we were created.
Discipline Embraces Truth
If we want to enter into true freedom and consistently choose what is good in our daily lives, discipline is a tool we absolutely need in our toolboxes. Discipline isn’t punishment, but it is training ourselves with the help of divine grace and guidance. There are two practical forms of discipline I want to focus on here: ordering our daily lives and keeping our commitments.
When I say ordering our daily lives, I don’t mean keeping a rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for adjustments or changes. Trust me, I’m more of a Type B personality than a Type A. What I mean is crafting a daily schedule in which we are consistently prioritizing the right things. What are your top priorities and what are your daily responsibilities? After confirming what those are, we need to take stock of what place those things are taking each day in our lives. An ordered life keeps us on a consistent path with a guide of how to love and serve God. Living our days by a plan isn’t strict or boring, it keeps us from idleness and helps us to walk in God’s purpose.
The second aspect of discipline is keeping our commitments. We have gotten into the habit of “keeping our options open” or saying maybe to everything. But scripture calls us to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no (Matthew 5:37), even in the small things. A good practice of discipline is to stick to the plans that we make. Whether those plans are with friends, our family, going to an event or attending a small group, we keep them- even if something better comes up. This may seem like common sense, but we don’t really practice this in our lives. Letting our yes mean yes and our no mean no trains us to choose what is good and right over our own self interests.
You were created for greatness, for Heaven! And God has actually designed you to be able to get there with the help of his divine grace. He has set us free FROM sin, FOR the pursuit of what is true, for the pursuit of Him and union with the Trinity forever. Freedom is a gift we have been given, but it is a gift for us to use, not to receive and keep passively. Let us ask ourselves each day: for what are we using our freedom?