I lost my freedom and independence on the 9th of May, 2004. It was a sunny day in Virginia, and we were celebrating: Jessica wore a beautiful white dress and we hired tuxedos, a horse drawn carriage, and a chocolate fountain for the occasion. The pastor who gave the message told us that in one sense, the day marked a death. Not a physical death, but a death of our two independent lives which were now being joined together to create something new. He was right. In the fourteen years since that day, neither of us have had the freedom and independence we enjoyed before. In fact, over the years we’ve found three highly effective ways to limit our independence even further: their names are Daniel, David and Rebekah.
These days, people talk as if any situation that limits our options is a prison to be avoided at all costs. Absolute freedom to do as we jolly well please whenever we jolly well please to do it is the happiest situation any human can find themselves in, according to the chattering heads on the telly. Now, I’ve got nothing against freedom or options or any of that, but I’m here to say that the deepest and happiest experiences of my life have come as a direct result of choices to willingly give up my freedoms and limit my options. For example, the choice to commit myself for the rest of my life to one women was certainly limiting. There are billions of women in the world who are now off limits for me, billions of possible options which I now have no freedom to choose. Yet it is precisely this limitation which has given me a new kind of freedom that I never could have had as long as I kept my billions of options open: I now have the freedom to love one person with my whole heart – no reservations, no conditions, no hesitation. And unlike the billion options, which remain static and shallow, my freedom to love this one woman actually deepens and expands with time as we learn and grow together.
Similarly, our three independence-limiting offspring make many choices difficult or impossible. It’s hard to go to the cinema as a couple these days, and school schedules now shape our life in ways we thought we had left behind with childhood. We can’t travel to Paris on a whim or even go to the park without needing booster seats. But these lost opportunities are the walls surrounding a fruitful garden growing with a bounty of happiness. The walls may limit the size of my world, but I don’t mind. Many of the most delicious fruits need time and security to grow. These fruits don’t do well in the wild country where a million options rove freely, trampling anything that begins to take root. The wild country is a desert of rolling tumbleweed-people, too afraid to settle down to anything because there might possibly be something better over the next hill. No thank you. I’m happy to shut those noisy options outside and stay in my place where I can watch our sacrifices of time, effort, money, and lost opportunities grow into healthy, laughing people who constantly steal my heart and then fill it up until it bursts with pride and delight.
And it’s not just the family. I chose a job, and gave up the option of many other careers. We bought a house, and tied ourselves down to one little piece of land sprouting weeds and flowers. Yet with all these limitations, I’m not afflicted by the fear of missing out. After all, what’s the point of having thousands of choices unless we actually use them to choose something? I say with Chesterton; “leave to me the liberty for which I chiefly care, the liberty to bind myself.” The freedom of having open options was never meant to be a goal in itself. Trying to keep this sort of freedom is like trying to keep your plate empty at a feast because you don’t have room to try everything. Life is a feast, and our time is limited even if our options are many.
As for me, I’d give up every choice in the world to see the smiles I saw at breakfast this morning.