This post is going to be pretty stream-of-consciousness, because it's the stuff that has been, well, streaming through my consciousness for many months now. So hard to put it down in words when so many spiritual lessons are pouring down. It's all so amazing and I want to talk to everyone about it all the time, but that is simply not possible. I do think it's easier to talk to people about it one-on-one, rather than write about it. But I will try to write something coherent.
First: If you are full of fear, cede control. Actually, even if you are not full of fear, cede control! Give it up. You are not in control. The only thing you can control is your will. That is all. Nothing else. Nothing else. You certainly cannot control other people, you cannot control circumstances, you cannot end suffering, sickness, disaster, and death. The illusion of control is a detriment to your spiritual life, to your interior peace, and to your relationship with God.
At some point, if you don't give up control, it will be forced from you, and painfully. I had my huge spiritual turning point and near-breakdown last July which snuck up on me in the middle of my very charmed life, quite unwelcomed. I have promised to tell you about it, and I will, but it's a bit like writing my mother-in-law's conversion story -- big and awe-ful and beautiful and terrifying and hard to express and oh yes, it may turn into a three-parter, just like that one. Because it's that HUGE in my life. My "breakdown" was the greatest spiritual lesson I ever received. It was both the darkest, most terrifying time of my life and the experience for which I am most grateful. (I hope I learned enough that I never, ever have to repeat anything like it, but I'll leave that decision to God.)
In the aftermath, I keep pondering and learning and processing, talking to others who have had amazingly similar experiences, thinking about the way so many of us move through the world with such fear (even those of us who never consciously knew that we did fear) -- fear of not being in control, fear for our families, our children, our financial security, fear of sickness, of suffering, of loneliness, and ultimately a fear of our own death, which is a subject we love to ignore in this culture of materialism, comfort, convenience, and pleasure-seeking. Anxiety and fear seem to define so many of us (though not all of us, and that is part of the story I'll tell, too).
Yes, I'm rambling.
But guys, this is so big! After I came out of my crisis, God opened up a wealth of knowledge about things that hadn't mattered to me before. I am not special; this has happened to many of you, too. Providentially, things were put in my path that had the exact application for my life at the exact moment and season that I needed them, including a book that I had picked up years ago and put down in boredom, but then picked up again last fall and subsequently had my socks knocked off. I already gushed about that book, here. I have given away many copies, recommended it to countless friends, and I now return to its principles
It's so brilliantly simple. It's about ordering our spiritual life around one central idea, and in doing so we change everything.
From the Forward of this book, Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen (emphases mine):
... [As Christians] we are told to deny ourselves, forgive one another, carry our cross, fast, and give alms. We must also love our neighbor, pray with others and in private, bring our troubles to the Lord, and be peacemakers. All of these things have their place, and nothing may be overlooked, but they may cause us to feel confused and divided, and we might even ask ourselves where we will find the strength to do all that is required.... We are pulled in different directions, and instead of finding peace, we become restless. What we need most is a central idea, something so basic and comprehensive that it encompasses everything else. In my opinion that central idea is surrender.
Total abandonment to the will of our Loving Father.
But, what is God's will? It's whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now. The life you are living today is God's will for you today. The people you are in contact with today, the work you are doing today, the cross you are carrying today -- all these are God's will for you, today. You needn't dismiss your current duties, tasks, or interactions, nor look past your current dissatisfactions and restlessness in order to go seek God's mysterious will somewhere "out there", because God is always present to you in this moment -- not only in the joys and satisfactions, but even in the tediums, confusions, aggravations, and grave sufferings.
Live with God in the present.
If you are someone who wallows in the past: You need to stop.
If you are someone who worries about the future: You need to stop.
We are not to live in the past or the future, we are to live in this day and in this moment. If one thing has guided my Lent this year, it's a commitment to live in the moment and not fret about the future ("What if...?") that was my tendency.
Do we trust God or not?
Another thing many of us need to hear: Stop trying to save the world! We are not responsible for that. If you need both living Popes to tell you that straight out so you'll believe it, then here you go, starting with Pope Francis' Lenten Message for 2015 (emphases mine, in light of the theme of surrender):
"The suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves."
And from Pope Benedict XVI (again, emphases mine):
“There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: 'The love of Christ urges us on' (2 Cor 5:14).”
You got that? You are not in control, and you cannot save the world or even yourself for that matter. So, take that weight off your shoulders and feel peace.
To wrap up today's ramblings:
Stop dwelling on the past (right now!).
Stop worrying about the future (right now!).
Stop trying to control everything (because you can't!).
Stop searching for God's mysterious will somewhere "out there" (because His will for you can be found right where you are!).
Start trusting God in everything. He's got you!
Start abandoning yourself totally to His will.
Start realizing that every person and every circumstance in your life is there for a good reason.
Start seeing God in this moment, right now, because this moment is where He meets you.
Start to feel the peace that Christ gives, the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's real!
Abandon yourself to the God who loves you. Cede control. Surrender.
He can be trusted.
|Jesus saves Peter|