Today is my birthday—I am 55. And while, to some in the DDF community, that’s still relatively young, the second-half-of-life issues Paula Huston addresses in A Season of Mystery do apply to me. Will I continue to strive after what I want in life as though I will live forever and have endless energy and resources? Some days I find myself still striving far too much—for approval, for a sense of accomplishment, for a better face or body, for something to comfort my losses.
Really, I think that most women who are even a few years past child-rearing age must confront very basic questions about how to approach life. Whether you are a mother or not a mother, whether you are a vowed nun, a woman in a long-standing career, married or not—after a certain age (and that varies from person to person), you must re-assess what an “abundant” life is for you. Here’s a great excerpt from A Season of Mystery to start our week and for me to begin the next year of my life.
If life’s purpose lies in getting what we want, as our culture insists, then freedom becomes a very big deal. Freedom, we think, is what allows us to exercise our “inalienable right” to the pursuit of happiness. With this view of freedom, it’s easy to feel threatened by constraint. Our instinct is to resist it with all our might, for it impedes our ability to live the life we think we want.
Yet to maximize this kind of freedom requires that we minimize or even eliminate serious relationships. For the more we rely on others or others rely on us, the less free we are to go wherever we wish to go, pursue whatever we wish to pursue, and do whatever we wish to do. Love constrains us. And in a society devoted to personal self-fulfillment, the cost of love often seems too high.
Surprisingly, freedom is a very big deal in the Gospels, too. However, here it means something quite different from what it means in twenty-first-century America. When Jesus says that “the truth will make you free” (John 8:36), he does not mean free to pursue personal happiness. When St. Paul says that it is “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1), he does not mean we now have permission to satisfy our every impulse and whim. Quite the contrary. In the Bible, the “free” person is the one no longer plagued by the burdensome quest for money, pleasure, possessions, social status, and political power—the very things that our culture says will satisfy our deepest wants and make us happy. (p. 17)
- What have these later years of your life taught you about freedom and unfreedom?
- How do freedom and happiness reside together in your life?
- What have you done lately to help free yourself from the harmful tendencies mentioned in this excerpt?