We all have been there. The desire may grow around a material thing – a new product, a home purchase, or landing that new job or promotion– or it may relate to something we’d like to do, perhaps seeing an old friend for a night out, taking a trip, or participating in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We get this strong inclination toward something and begin to “force” events toward our desired outcome.
When we read a book we allow ourselves to be taken where the author wishes us to go. We buckle up and go along for the ride. Rarely does a reader start marking up the pages of a novel, changing dialogue or re-writing entire chapters. We are not inspired to take the author’s place, even with a book that we feel has missed the mark.
Our lives are stories. Can we doubt that the intricate intertwining of human interaction we see all around is a tale spun by a being greater than ourselves? G.K. Chesterton wrote, “I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.”
How many of us really know the peace of letting God tell our story without the absurd scene of the protagonist (us!) trying to steal the pen away from the author’s hand? Yet, many of us do just that. Some days we are so bold as to simply believe we can write a better epic than the Lord; other days we find ourselves dropping hints at plot twists that might make his story flow a bit better.
In Abandonment to Divine Providence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes: “The designs of God—what he chooses to do, his will, his actions, and his grace—are all one and the same thing, all working together to enable us to reach perfection. And perfection is neither more nor less than the soul’s faithful cooperation with God. . . . If a faithful soul accepts God’s will and purpose in all simplicity, he will reach perfection without ever realizing it, just as a sick man who swallows medicine obediently will be cured, although he neither knows nor cares about medicine. . . .We must put all speculation aside, and, with childlike willingness, accept all that God presents to us. What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.”
How can we ever be disappointed if we take this attitude toward our lives? If God truly knows best, whether we receive physical suffering or health, riches or financial struggles, abundance in companionship and love or isolation and loss, we know he is refining our souls so that we may find the path to him; and we will marvel at our own story.
Jesus gave us the recipe for the abandonment that he seeks from us: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). Think of the trust a child has toward her parents, the complete reliance that she will be cared for in all that matters.
God asks us to take on this attitude of trust, even as we are tempted by the many worries that can consume us: “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matt 6:31-34).
Believe it or not, Lent is about one month away. The Church gives us this beautiful season of repentance to deepen our trust in God’s providence for our lives. Instead of waiting until Ash Wednesday to prepare our hearts for Lent, let’s begin today. Choose one area of your life in which you constantly seek to take away God’s pen, no matter if it relates to feelings or actions toward another person, the need for control, the absence of motivation, addiction or lack of faith. Give God complete reign in this area and ask Jesus daily in prayer to show you his will about this stronghold against abandonment. Listen carefully to Jesus’ voice and then, as Mother Mary advised, “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
God will answer your prayers, and the results may astonish you. He will also prepare you in unexpected ways for a deeper encounter with him as Lent approaches.
Your life is meant to be a page-turner. Allow the author of all life the freedom he desires to tell your story as it was meant to be told.
This article was first published in the February 7, 2014 issue of the Colorado Catholic Herald.