At Ambleside, the daily work we purpose to accomplish is to educate children so they are empowered to attain the fullness of life for which they were created. Teachers, staff, parents, and board members have a passion to set children on the path so they can “author free and full lives”. Ironically, we as adults sometimes forget we are meant to author free and full lives, too.
What did Charlotte Mason mean by author a free and full life? Freedom comes to a person who is confident in how they were created, who engages knowledge as a joyful discovery and who values the relationships in and around herself. Such a person must begin by learning to relate well to God, self, others, ideas, and creation.
The truly abundant (full and free) life cannot be attained without an attached relationship with the God who uniquely designed you. The freedom and peace that come from knowing that we have been made right with God through Jesus’s sacrifice are immeasurable but tangible. Our new identity flows from this unfathomable gift God has given us: He now calls us holy, saints, righteous, free. God lavishly and fully loves us, and this love is based solely on the choice He made to love us and rescue us through Christ. Learning your identity in Christ is critical to the way we show up in this world – for if we do not know we are fully loved and God sees us through the lens of His perfect Son, we tend to operate from shame or pride – which is incompatible with living freely or fully.
As we enter adulthood, the responsibilities and pressures of life feel immediate, and the phrase “relationship to self” may feel foreign. We go through the motions of daily living, numbing our negative emotions in a variety of ways, living unconnected with our own selves never learning to slow down and breathe. It is difficult to find gratitude and joy in our daily lives. Yet, a free and full life also requires a growing relationship with self. At our November campus meeting, we engaged ideas that can help us learn to quiet and rediscover joy (through focused breathing and appreciation exercises). It is surprising how these simple but powerful exercises open up life in a more meaningful and beautiful way.
Taking a look back at your own history is a worthy endeavor in rediscovering who you were created to be. In what kind of atmosphere was I formed? How has that affected the person I am today – the choices I’ve made and the ones I currently make? What was I like as a child, before the world, with all of its worries, stripped away my childlike innocence and ability to play (which I’m really not meant to lose completely!)? What things was I drawn to as a child? What parts of my personality have always been there, right from the very beginning? What dreams got buried along the way and need to be rebirthed, redefined now as an adult? What brought unfettered joy to me? Beginning to engage questions like these will awaken a truer sense of yourself. Give yourself permission and time to explore and engage in what you may find.
Further consideration should be given to how we as adults choose to live a full free life in regard to our relationship with others, to ideas and to creation. Which “piece” speaks to your heart as the next step in your journey of authoring a free and full life? These ideas can feel a bit intimidating – scary even – but we know real growth (and delight) is found on the other side of struggle. The discomfort is worth taking the courageous next step in your life to press into the abundant life God offers us, even though temporary pain and fear of sorting through the emotions will arise. You will not regret it.