Sunday, April 29, 2018

What She Did Not Choose

Franz Verhas: Young Girl Reading

There's a beautiful passage in Fr. Jacques Philippe's book, In the School of the Holy Spirit, that seems to capture the interior attitude of many of the great saints of our Church. It's an inner disposition that will always bear great fruit since it abandons itself to God's will and leans on the Holy Spirit for its strength and guidance:

"What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God."

There's so much to unpack in this quote. It requires a trust and inner resilience that is almost boundless. In a later paragraph, he unwraps St. Therese of Lisieux' "I choose it all" with this statement: "I won't content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will, I decide to choose what I have not chosen."

 This is saint-making material, folks. We can not always control what happens to us in life but by a "free act of my will" I can "embrace what I have not chosen". The result of this sort of compliance (like putty in the Lord's hands) is a great interior freedom without resentment and without that feeling of powerlessness over circumstances that you would otherwise not choose. When we make these "acts of the will", it places every aspect of what's occurring or has occurred into the hands of the Lord, including the outcome, and, of course, there is no end to what God can do with something that's entrusted into His care. When we try to control a situation (which we love to do) we remove some of the power and ability to act from God's hands because He respects our free will and if something isn't given to Him freely and completely, we bind His hands to a degree since we are choosing our own will over His.

There's a powerful application to this type of interior act, especially for those who come from dysfunctional families and tend to walk around with the "weight of the world" on their shoulders from carrying a burden that they took on when they were too young to understand or do anything about. To raise a painful past to the Lord and by a free act of the will say to the God of All that Is "I decide to choose what I have not chosen" is the epitome of inner freedom and is the mark of death to resentment and self-pity, for one who has chosen is never a victim (in the sense of the world's viewpoint of victimhood).

Imagine the possibilities. All things and all that you are placed in the hands of the One who brings order out of chaos, the One who speaks a word and it is accomplished. Can God ignore such an  act of trust and abandonment? Of course not. This kind of trust and faith in God bears fruit abundantly. We may not see all the fruit it produces while we are here on earth but we will surely see it in heaven.

This isn't an easy act to make. It's not just words - it presupposes the very real supplantation of your desires for God's desires. It demands a certain amount of detachment, a willingness to release your hold on the past (as well as the present and future), a spirit of forgiveness, and an interior submission that doesn't always come easy. However, it's far easier than walking under a terrible burden that you refuse to give up.

Despair can never plant itself in the soil of God's will, for His will, accepted and embraced, is the seedbed of joy.

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)