Blog Post

To Whom, or What, Am I Bound?

“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” - G. K. Chesterton

Lent is fast approaching, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day this year (February 14). In just over a week, my favorite time of the year will coincide with my favorite holiday. It’s no coincidence, I believe, that Valentine’s Day coincides with Ash Wednesday; our world is in dire need of true purification, and what better way to begin than by looking to charity. To be rid and stripped of all those things that do not point to our Beloved is a main goal of Lent; and looking to where our lives are bound is a perfect place to start.

We often think that being bound to anything is a bad thing - that it inhibits our self-freedom. However, to love is to be bound. And, as Pope Francis said, “The freedom that comes from receiving the gift of a joyful Christian life can only come to those who are held captive by God’s love.” To be bound by God’s love, and His love alone, is freedom.

I heard a quote recently in mass: whatever we love more than God will likely end in disappointment. Money, relationships, self…whatever it is that we put before Him could be taken from us in order to purify us and reorient us to what matters.

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote a prayer centuries ago called the Suscipe. It is my favorite prayer: “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”

I remember when I first stumbled upon the Suscipe and, truthfully, I feared it. To pray for God to remove all from my life but His love and grace required something from me that I was not, at one time, ready to receive - humility. To accept that He knew best and that I was willing to surrender all was a grace I was not ready to lean in to. But in doing so, I was awakened to what bound me and what I loved most of all-myself.

There is something terrifying about placing God ahead of everything else. It’s easy to say that He is the priority and that He is number one; it’s hard to actually live it. Practically speaking, this means we must examine ourselves: where do we spend our time? For what and whom do we live? Is it for ourselves? Our jobs? Our relationships? While all of these things are often gifts from God, we must learn how to love the Giver rather than just the gift; and to allow His grace to transform our selfish desires into charitable acts prompted by His will.

It might seem as though we’ve “lost it all” by putting Him ahead of all else, but when we accept that true love means placing the Beloved first rather than ourselves or anything else, we willingly accept being bound to the One for whom we were created. In turn, we gain everything – true freedom. Hence Chesterton’s statement: love is not blind.

Thus, part of the Christian journey is opening our eyes to where our hearts lie and embracing the changes we must make to ultimately call ourselves free. We must redirect our focus to recognize His call in each of these areas and live for Him through these examples.

As you embark on the next week of preparing for this Lenten season, a time wherein its culmination is Christ’s crucifixion and, ultimately, His resurrection, I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on your own life, on your priorities, on what you claim to love.

"Freedom means knowing how to reflect on what we do, knowing how to evaluate, which are the behaviors that make us grow. It means always choosing the good.... Being free to always choose the good is challenging, but it will make you persons with a backbone, who know how to face life, [and live as] courageous and patient persons." Pope Francis.

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Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct professor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator.   She can be reached at (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography)