I've been reflecting on freedom today, thanks to a song by Theo, who blogs at Happy Begun Freedom. In a short, haunting melody, the words at once simple and profound - and easily understood by anyone who has ever completed the Spiritual Exercises - she reflects on her recent experience of a thirty days retreat. The final refrain especially caught my attention:
But o my soul, o my soul,
when did you become all liberty?
The liberty of a fool,
who gives herself away
to love him in return,
o my soul.
I was transported back thirteen years, to the day I made my perpetual vows. On that day I experienced the most joyous, unbounded freedom coursing through my veins. Paradoxically, inexplicably, having chosen to bind myself forever; having made vows to God which would in many ways circumscribe my future life and options (even as, in another paradox, they widened them immensely), I knew myself to be supremely free. I had experienced this paradox of growing captivation and freedom during my own long retreat; had heard, vaguely, of this sense of liberty happening to others, but half-forgotten and somehow not expected it, so it was all the stronger and more surprising for that.
What lies behind this paradox? Maybe it is that in the binding of self there is a kind of de-cluttering, just as many people feel lightness and freedom after they've given away clothes, books and other possessions. And maybe the act of de-cluttering or vowing one's life isn't in itself the cause of the strange freedom, but the apotheosis of an inner process of freeing oneself from what is not needed, which finds its much-needed release in this way. All I know is, I gave myself away, vowed myself forever, and knew how it felt to become all liberty.
So I watch the shrubs outside my window, waving in the dying evening light, and pray that, like them, I can be truly free in my rootedness; the freedom which comes from being totally rooted in and given to God.