Do you feel chained or released by your habits?
I’m a Christian. The theology of freedom and slavery is never far from my mind. As a Catholic in particular, I face criticism for believing and living as I do. I intentionally surround myself with friends who are living the same way, but you can’t control every presence in your life. There are people who meet me now and have no idea where I came from, and there are people who’ve known me all along and can’t quite grasp the change. Why would I voluntarily choose a life full of restrictions and rules? Why would I actually follow those rules? How do they see chains where I see liberation?
In their defense, I can understand how it seems so strange that I find my habits freeing. When I think back to my past life (or read about it in my old blog posts), I remember the way I used to think and act. Even thinking back to just a few years ago gives me examples of changed habits and new-found freedom.
Before I made a habit of modest dress, I wore some clothes I’m not proud of. I remember feeling like I had no other choice, because that was what was in the stores, and everyone else dressed the same way—or worse. I got attention for my immodesty. I liked the attention, but I wished I didn’t have to get the looks with it. So I started listening to that little voice and decided I wanted to dress differently. Modesty set me free to be who I wanted to be.
Before I made a habit of modest style, I was covered-up but boring. I still dressed basically the same way I did in high school, except that I dressed up for church on Sundays and didn’t wear jeans to work. Modest, stylish role models like Audrey at Putting Me Together and Chandra at More Modern Modesty set me free to dress as fashionably and tastefully. That’s what I wanted.
Before I made a habit of chaste love, I did some things I’m not proud of. Fear not: I’ve repented, confessed, received absolution, and moved on. My heart has healed, and I have been made new. Intentionally building chaste relationships with all the people in my life requires much more effort than anything I had tried before. I have to learn how to genuinely love them, to do what is best for them. I feel more loved now, and I think I show more love now. Isn’t being a Christian all about love, anyway? Learning to love purely and authentically set me free to love like Christ.
My faith lends itself to habits. One of my favorite things about Catholic worship is that we do basically the same thing every time. I don’t have to think about the details, so I can immerse myself in the experience and fully open myself to God and my community. Similarly, I don’t have to pit culture versus conscience every time I walk into a store. If I don’t like any of the clothes I see, I don’t buy them. I don’t have to decide whether each person I meet is worthy of love. They all are. Every single one.
I am a creature of habit, I am a Christian, and I have been set free.