A couple of weeks ago we attended an Open House at the Catholic High School my son will be attending next fall. At one point my son, perhaps in awe of all the high school students, made a comment along the lines that he can't wait until he gets older so he can be free to do what he wants.
Hmmmm. He was expressing a very common attitude in young teens who tend to think of freedom as not having a parent, or a teacher, or anyone for that matter, telling them what to do. To them, freedom is doing "what I want".
It was just a passing comment, but I didn't want him to think freedom was simply having a selection of choices; instead, he needed to know that true freedom is found in the right choice you ultimately make. It's a hard concept to understand.
To illustrate my point I reminded him of something that happened not so long ago:
One evening last fall our middle son, Jonathan, was excited about an upcoming football game and he wanted the entire family to come see him play. It had been a very busy week and Nicholas did not want to go. I could see that this was hurting his little brother's feelings, so I had a quiet talk with Nicholas.
I explained to him how much it meant for Jonathan to have his older brother come cheer him on, but since it had been a stressful week, we were going to leave the decision up to him. He could freely choose to come to the game, or he could stay home.
Now, neither decision was wrong, but one was definitely more right.
When it was time to leave, Nicholas came downstairs, high-fived his brother, and climbed into the van. We all went to the game and had a lovely evening.
As I told this story, Nicholas smiled...he remembered. But I wasn't done, yet.
I explained how that night he had been given the freedom to choose, but with his decision he experienced the true freedom that is God's gift to us. It's not the freedom found in the opportunity to choose, but rather the freedom that comes with choosing the right thing.
And the beauty of this freedom is that it manifests itself on so many levels.
That night Jonathan was free from having his feelings hurt.
My husband and I were free from any feelings of disappointment in our son.
Nicholas was free from any guilt he may have felt had he chosen not to go.
All these graces because he made a decision that was the right thing to do.
Of course, life is complicated. Decisions aren't always easy, or clear. But when we turn to God and pray for discernment, He shows us the way.
Only then can we be free.