Not my will, but yours, O God, be done

It’s been a slow day in the blogosphere. Not too much happening out there, or here.

I did want to alert you to a wonderful post on Sister Nicolette Etienne’s blog that particularly moved me. Sr. Kathy Smolik, OSB, continues a series of posts (this is the fifth) on the “Little Way” of Therese of Lisieux.

Although I have blockquoted much of it here, I encourage you to read it in full without my rambling comments.

In particular, Sister writes about surrendering our will as Therese offered hers up to God. Her post contains the rest of the story from Therese’s childhood, but here’s the end:

Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: ‘My God, I choose all! I don’t want to be a saint by halves, I’m not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that you will!’” (Therese, p. 27)

Right on! I think I too often want to be “half a saint”–you know, to be holy, but not too holy; or to be just good enough. But as the saying goes, “good enough isn’t.” As Therese points out, that’s a dangerous place to be. It is there that we become stagnant and come upon spiritual lows.

As Therese points out here, we ought to FEAR that place. It is in that place that we partly wish to serve God, but end up serving more our own wills. It is in that place that we hold back ourselves for ourselves, choosing to give the leftovers to God. We close God out. Our faith becomes lukewarm.

I have a faded post-it in my wallet that reads: “Leave nothing of yourself for yourself.” Too often, that doesn’t seem to do the trick.

As Sister reflects in this post, the best way to get rid of our own wills and surrender to God our entire being is to, following the example of Therese, let others be our compass:

In Christianity we have mediators between God and us. As children, we obey our parents; married couples, each other; in school, our teachers; at work, our employers; in civil life our elected officials, and finally in the Church, our Superiors. As a religious, the Superior holds the place of Christ. Therese always carried out the will of her Superior, without rationalizing, and in a spirit of love and gratitude.

We’ve got superiors. When our Holy Father comes out with writings that point us to God, perhaps we should read them and act on them. When our Archbishop implores us to do something–through his column, written prayer intentions, or in another way–, we ought to do it. When our priests ask us to do something–for the parish or in our own lives–we ought to consider and pray about it.

And, as that blockquote above explains: we must do it, like Therese, with love and gratitude. It’s hard, I think, to surrender our will and do the will of someone else. But if that someone else is pointing us and leading us to Christ, well, then, let’s set our pride aside and be accountable to him/her. Forgive another blockquote:

Every day when reciting the “Our Father” we pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We can only give up our will by being accountable to another; otherwise, whose voice are we listening to – God’s voice, our own, or the voice of evil? God’s glory shines through when we surrender in faith, but concretely in time.

You know, I’ve experienced what I’ve called signs about my vocation; many pointing me to it, but some suggesting I take a step back. The latter variety really concerned me, so I sought advice. Fr. Bill told me that if God wanted me to slow down and wait to go to seminary, he’d use people to convey that message. Same idea can be applied about certain habits and flaws that we need to address: God tells us to amend our lives by using other people to tell us–priests, religious, parents, teachers, etc.!!

Sister provides an excellent list of how Therese went about surrendering her will to God:

* not imposing her will on others
* holding back a reply
* in rendering little services without recognition
* not defending herself
* instead of answering back, giving a smile
* allowing others to take what belonged to her
* anticipating other’s needs

Let’s take a page from the book that was Therese’s life!

3 thoughts on “Not my will, but yours, O God, be done

  1. I think that it is interesting that you talk about fear. While fear of the lord is a virtue, some people take it too far (many evangelical christians) and completely forget to love God.

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  2. Mike:
    Thanks for telling us about that post. I went and read it, and I was most struck by the first quote that she put into the post, even though it was not one of St. Therese's… “Some offer themselves at first, but later, beaten down by temptations, they go back to their old ways…” That is such a true statement right there.

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  3. Kevin: I agree. I think there is a level of fear that is healthy, and crucial if we want to love God as we should. But some do take it too far, and then service to God sometimes means acting out of fear that God will punish us or something of that nature. When that sets in, love sets out.

    Teresa: I had the same reaction to that initial quote from Thomas Kempis. When I read “Imitation of Christ,” I found myself underlining nearly every sentence! The whole thing is filled with lines like that. They ring so true.

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