The words crossed my bleary mind as I pushed my eyelids open. The darkness of the bedroom was like a cozy comforter, wrapping around me with peace and quiet. I lay there for a minute or two, my eyelids slipping down again as memories began to resurface.
Years ago, I did not really like sleep. Sleep was just something that took me away from the excitement of life. Those were the days (and nights) of staying up late with college friends before waking up at the crack of dawn for breakfast and morning classes. I graciously smiled (and mostly ignored) the wise upper classmen who would tell me, I used to live like that, but I've discovered that I have to sleep. Sure enough, I hit a wall at some point. I discovered that I could no longer live off of 5 or so hours of sleep a night, and that I needed to get at least a little more than that. I also discovered that I really, really like sleep.
|I bet this adorable fox really likes sleep, too.|
It's funny that for all we say about free will, we often like to act as if this capacity "to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility" (CCC 1731) doesn't exist.
That's great that you can get up early, I like sleep way too much to do that.
That's cool you go running; if I liked exercise, then maybe I'd do that.
We think things like this, believing these narratives wholeheartedly. If only we liked to do these things, then we would do them! If only! And then we go off and teach others about free will and the choices that we have (been there, done that). When it comes to salvation and our choice to follow God, then sure-we're all about free will. But when it comes to daily life, we conveniently try to forget about it. It's much more comfortable to be controlled by our desires or external forces, without claiming responsibility. We're like preschoolers who destroy a room and then claim It's not my fault; Mr. Nobody made me do it!
We aren't mindless robots who simply perform actions based on external stimuli; we're rational human beings who are capable of making choices and acting on those choices. How many times have we seen a "based on a true story" movie and been inspired by the way in which the main character rises above mediocre circumstances to become extremely successful? Many of us love these types of movies, and rejoice when the characters overcome obstacles. However, we like to forget all of the grunt work and effort that comes along with those types of journeys. We tend to forget that these men and women had to make difficult choices and actively work instead of being controlled by their situations. Like these people, we each need to be an agent, a "person or thing that takes an active role."
I've noticed that many people (again, myself included) like to pull the whole "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (see Matt 26:41) line as if that should excuse us from making difficult choices. We tend to forget the context of this verse, that Jesus was calling the Apostles to watch with him and pray even though that would be a difficult choice for them, because hello, sleep is nice.
We have the ability to choose; we have free will. Acknowledging this reality is difficult and uncomfortable. If I hear my alarm, ignore it, and go back to sleep, I have to face the reality that I chose to sleep. Sometimes, I really do need that sleep to re-charge and rest, and I have to deal with the difficulties that come with waking up later in the morning. If it's hot outside and I decide not to run, that could be a good decision, but as I bemoan the fact that I'm "so out of shape," I still need to admit that I chose not to run. There are many people who I've seen running (in long pants!) in the heat of the afternoon, people who made their own choices to run despite the obvious challenge that Oklahoma summertime presents.
I'm not sitting in the coffee shop because I had no desire to sleep longer.
I'm not sitting in the coffee shop because some magical force lifted me out of bed and floated me down the road.
I'm not sitting in the coffee shop because I dislike sleep.
I am sitting in the coffee shop because I made a difficult choice. I really like sleep. I wanted to sleep longer. After my alarm went off, I thought, I can just sleep in today; no one if forcing me to get up. But I thought about how much I needed this time to nurture my passions, and how cultivating creativity is important. I thought about how I will be able to love and serve my family and others better if I take this time for peaceful work. I thought about how much I wanted more sleep, but how I wanted this time to write even more. And so I said a prayer, hauled myself out of bed, and got to work. I really like sleep, yet here I am, a now-empty coffee cup by my side.
Not every day is like this. Some days, I don't choose the "road less traveled," and instead I choose the comfortable, mediocre path. Some days, I make terrible decisions. And I'm learning that I need to own up to that. I'm learning that I can't just say Well, you know how it is, "the spirit is willing, but..." or I'm a work-in-progress, so it's no big deal. Yes, my flesh is weak. Yes, I'm a work-in-progress. But the fact that I'm an imperfect human being does not keep me from acknowledging the reality that I can rise above my circumstances and desires.
I have a choice. I have free will. Will I start to act like it?