The Freedom of Giving Up

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 Lent gives us the opportunity to let God strip away the disordered desires that “own” us so we can be free to choose HIm.

We have a very mixed up idea of what freedom is. We think that freedom is choice, and more specifically in our consumerist society, we think true freedom is having a multitude of choices. We expect the t-shirt we want to be available in every color under the sun. We expect hundreds of flavors of coffee to be waiting for us at the grocery store. But on a deeper level, we think moral freedom is many options we can chose between.

But this isn’t the Christian understanding of freedom. St. Augustine defines true freedom as the freedom to choose the good, not just to choose one of many options. And Lent is an opportunity to journey to a place of freedom where we are made free to choose virtue.

Perhaps it’s a silly example, but I gave up a very typical lenten sacrifice: sweets. I’m a jam and toast with breakfast, cookies after lunch, and ice cream before bedtime kind of girl. I love sweets, but the truth is, “I will eat what I want when I want it,” isn’t freedom. In fact, it’s very easy for me to become enslaved to sugar. I am not free to make a good choice (in this case, honoring my body by giving it nourishment) because sugar owns me. After my three kids go down for nap, my body screams, “WHERE ARE THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS?” and I gobble down a big handful. After they’re tucked in bed, I get out the ice cream that I’ve been craving since dinnertime. I’m constantly thinking about my next sugar fix. I’m not free, I’m a slave to my desires.

Lent gives us the opportunity to let God strip away the disordered desires that “own” us so that we can be free to choose Him. After a couple of weeks of saying “no” to my sugar cravings, I’m going about my day as if ice cream doesn’t exist (terrible thought, but let’s shudder and move on). Sugar is no longer telling me what to do. I have the freedom to choose the good because I have mortified that particular disordered desire.

Now don’t get me wrong, ice cream is a gift from God (don’t I know it!), but our desires can become disordered and twisted. We allow ourselves to become enslaved. Our freedom is gone. And it can take great discipline to become master of our desires and regain the ability to choose what is truly good.

There’s just a few days left in Lent. What can you ask for God’s grace to be freed from so that you can pursue the Good?

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  1. says

    I enjoyed this reflection. I’ve given up TV/movies and my last hour of sleep before the kids wake. Freedom from these things allows me to choose the good of time in prayer in the morning and time for family Rosary before the kids go to bed at night.

  2. says

    Wow, another wonderful post Haley! You are on a Lenten roll!

    I too was finding myself owned by desserts– I couldn’t eat a meal without craving something sweet after, and I couldn’t sit down to relax without grabbing something sweet to eat. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s so freeing when Lent is over and you find that sweets don’t have the same power over you they once had.

    It’s amazing how the devil has twisted God’s gift of freedom so that so many of us think we’re free when we’re enslaved. It’s like we believe that true freedom is the freedom to make bad choices. Sure, we’re free to be miserable, but why do we want to be?

    • Haley says

      Aw, thanks, Jennifer! And yes, same here. Every meal, I was craving sweets afterwards. And of course I was tired and grumpy all the time. Go figure.

    • Haley says

      I always feel a pull to really kick Lent up a notch during Holy Week. I’ve been good about the no desserts, but I fell in love with these Green Tea Lattes and I am saying no until Easter and it HURTS. Isn’t it strange how sacrifices a tiny thing feels like such a big deal? Maybe I’m just a weakling 😉

  3. Trista says

    We were just discussing this in my Bible study group last week. One of the women described it as children playing soccer on the edge of a cliff. If there is no barrier, they aren’t truly free to play to their utmost. Conversely, if there is a wall to prevent them from falling over the cliff, it doesn’t restrict them, but rather gives them the freedom to give their all. This is the true freedom that God offers us. Freedom from enslavement to sin and a holy detachment is the freedom to truly live. I share your love/attachment/obsession with sweets; denying them during this Lent has proven similarly fruitful for me.

    • Haley says

      It’s scary to realize how addictive something as seemingly insignificant as sweets can be! I realized that I am really emotionally addicted to them and that when things get crazy in the house or multiple kiddos are crying at the same time, I stuff my mouth with chocolate to cope…..surely there are better ways to cope, haha.

  4. says

    I failed at my Lenten sacrifice and that’s how I know I am not free. I had planned a severe reduction in my time spent online…and I’m realizing just how tethered to my phone and computer I am. And I am definitely not free. And it’s no wonder I claim to not have any free time! Thanks for the wonderful reflection to drive that point home for me!

  5. Christine says

    I w ould like a T-Shirt with that Lenten phrase on it!! I love that. I am going to print that out and put it on the fridge and read your post to my family tonight and some of the comments. Very well written.

    Seems like this struggle is so ongoing. Seems like when I let go of one desire something jumps up and replaces it. So many distractions in my life…so many worries. I tried to let go of my anxiety issues because I worry so so much for my children. I need to trust more in God but I just don’t trust this world that will try so hard to turn them away from Him.

    It just seems like when you cannot have something…you want it. Why is this in our human nature?

  6. Laura F says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is precisely what I needed to hear today.
    As a musician, I dread Holy Week. It means rehearsals, obligations, devoting precious baby naptimes to learning introits… It’s good to be reminded of the reason I’m doing this!

  7. says

    I was feeling a little bit like a cheat this year. I joined a Facebook page challenge for Lent : 40 Bags in 40 days. We had two significant birthdays in April, hosting a large family celebration & a Sweet 16 & 18th parties on consecutive weekends. I wanted to house to be clean & somewhere the kids would be proud to invite their friends to.
    But after reading this post I realised that it wasn’t really cheating, because it could be about the chance to free our lives & home from the clutter, from the possessions & physical memories that weigh us down.
    I live in a house that my bloke shared with his ex wife & bought up his children for 12 years. It was their home, they chose together & has their memories. It has been hard for me in the two years since we married, but in that time I have tried to add bits of me. We painted, we redid the kitchen, landscaped the garden, shifted rooms around.
    But this 40 days Lent challenge has been instrumental in clearing out the old & really embracing the house as my home.
    All of the rooms are now(reasonably) neat, decorated tastefully with a mix of mine & theirs.
    I’m not sure if it’s been forty bags, but I have managed to get rid of stuff that I had been carting around with me from rentals & shared properties for 10-15years in the hopes to make them some how ‘mine’.
    I have now realised that I am not my stuff & I don’t need to keep things for memories sake.
    I now know that I am never going to make those 300 recipes I cut out of magazines, or use the home decorating inspiration from the 90’s when I dreamed of one day having my own place & I have Pinterest for that now.
    So my 40 day challenge has started to free me from my need to keep stuff & keep accumulating more. Trying the concept of one thing in two things out, buying quality not quantity.

    However, as a costume designer & milliner, the studio has not benefited from as much of a clean up. I felt that two gar-bags of fabric scraps was a pretty good purge. 🙂

  8. Kate W says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve felt that my Lent has not been very fruitful this year. I haven’t been great about praying, but I’ve been really good about giving up Facebook and Pinterest. I haven’t felt that this meant much, but this has reminded me that it was freeing enough to make me consider continuing to use Facebook only once a week. Thanks again!

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