Surrendering our life and our will in order to become congruent with that of the Father’s is one of the most foundational practices of Christianity. Although simple in theory, it is probably the area where we have the greatest number of “dug-in-heel” marks along our path. We as humans are often fraught with disordered compulsions to jump in and take charge, to control, to manipulate, to “make it happen”, to go after the object of our desire regardless of timing or the cost. I do not suggest reverting to an unmotivated wavering through life; but rather awakening the possibility of a more balanced approach between action and surrender, or doing and being. That which I refer to as “active surrender”.
Considering that by nature I am a “make an action plan, make it happen” kinda gal, surrender in early stages felt like an unnatural and insecure interior stance. I still sometimes wonder, “Shouldn’t I be doing something more?” But after being hit by the Reality Mack Truck, I began to consider for a moment how prideful it is to think that God – the Master of the Universe – requires my help in bringing something about. My headstrong involvement, lacking in eternal perspective, could even actually hinder something from occurring in the manner that it was intended. I then began to discover that much of my participation is accomplished through praying, listening, seeking, looking for the truth in the situation and discerning a wise and appropriate response to it. My role is important and necessary as is God’s, yet we remain properly ordered. It’s like riding the back of a tandem bicycle, peddling just as hard in second position while trusting the person in front to steer you safely to your final destination.
A passage I read frequently, to try and keep my feet set steadily peddling in back, is this one regarding St. Margaret Mary, who had received the promises from our Lord regarding Devotion to the Sacred Heart.
“Shortly before death, she had finally understood what he expected of her when he said to her, ‘Let me do it.’ ‘His Sacred Heart,’ she wrote, ‘will do everything for me if I let him. He shall will, he shall love, he shall desire for me and make up for all my faults.’
Like St. Margaret Mary, you may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’ In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask yourself, ‘What shall I do? How shall I do it?’ listen to him saying to you, ‘Let me do it.” And then answer him, ‘O Jesus, I thank you for all things.’ And it will be the most beautiful dialogue of love between a soul and the all-loving God!”
– excerpt from “I Believe in Love”
Undeniably both Jesus and Mary provide the models of perfection, in word and action, concerning this practice of letting go. Consider that their greatness was directly proportionate to the depth of the surrender they exhibited in every moment of their lives, embracing the Divine purpose and relinquishing their own wills to it. The following passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2825) further illustrates this point:
“Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.” How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father. In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.”
I just returned from Kansas City, MO, where over 21,000 others also attended the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference. The first evening I navigated through table after table of vendors until I finally entered the area where various religious orders were set up. To my right were both an old and younger Nun from the Little Sisters of the Poor. I stopped for opportunity to learn – about them and from them. I entered into a conversation with the younger one which covered a decent spectrum of topics, from daily routine to how God’s particular call was placed on her life. Everything was beautiful and inspiring, yet a statement of one of her daily practices took hold of me. She said that when she wakes up in the morning, the first thing she says immediately is, “Yes, Lord!” Everyday anew she gives the Lord her “yes”, demonstrating her willingness to let go and fully embrace what He brings to her in that new day. Sr. Emmanuel then prays for the grace in that day to follow through with her “yes”. Such simplicity, such love. I pray for that grace for you and I as well.