If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:36
On my recent retreat, I thought deeply about the one thing which still holds me back from completely, unabashedly abandoning myself to my Lord. And I know it well….FEAR.
It’s not that I am unwilling to carry the crosses which come my way. But, the thought of kneeling before God, and deliberately speaking a total and complete surrender to Him stirs a visceral reaction within me, and I quake at the unseen dread I imagine will soon fall upon me.
Whenever I do offer myself to Him, it is always with a slight disclaimer… oh, but please not that or I hope You won’t ask me for this. Sadly, it is not a generous and courageous gift of myself to Him…. such as He has made to me.
I trust God… that His Grace will be sufficient for any adversity, but it is the anticipation which terrifies me. And that is enough to restrain me, even though I know quite well that my caution in no way affords me any additional control….and do I really imagine that I know a better path than the one my Lord has chosen for me?
Once upon a time, I stepped out into the unknown, and offered myself unreservedly to God.
It was the first New Year’s Eve after my adult conversion. I was then 26 years old, and totally consumed with this God of Love Who had truly come “bounding over the hills” into my life. I had also immersed myself in the writings of St. Therese, whose passionate and daring protestations of her love for God delighted my young heart, so close then in years to her own.
Putting pen to paper, I sat on the floor by our Christmas tree and filled several pages with effusive thanksgiving to God for all that He had done for me during the past year… His coming into the darkness of my life and filling it with the Light of His Love, the torrents of Grace He had showered upon me, as though beside Himself to make up for all the lost years…calling me to daily Mass and an irresistible attraction to His Eucharistic Presence…. the holy, paternal Irish priest who had taken me under his wing, and in whom I saw a reflection of my heavenly Father. There was so much to thank Him for! My pen weaved into words the thoughts spilling out of my heart. And then, longing to make a return to Him, I ended my thanksgiving with an invitation:
“Even though I long to help save souls for You, I am too weak to ask You to send me suffering, but I simply want to say that if You desire me to suffer something for love of You, let it come, and I will know from whence it came.”
The following October, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was completely unexpected. My doctor was shocked. Young women simply don’t get uterine cancer of the type I had. And then there was the cure…a total hysterectomy, which would remove not only organs, but also my cherished dream of bearing children.
When the nurse phoned to ask that my husband and I come in to see the doctor, she didn’t say why. But somehow, I knew. My sister was sure that the procedure I’d had the previous day had revealed something related to why I hadn’t been able to conceive in the four years we had been trying. But I knew better.
I locked myself inside my red and white bathroom and cried aloud to God, “I can’t have cancer. I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.”
And then, for the very first time, I heard an interior voice, clear, riveting, incredibly powerful, yet reassuring. “Yes you can,” the voice said. “Yes you can.” And I walked out of the bathroom and got into the car with my husband. The doctor was nervous, but I was strangely calm. Because I knew.
And yes, I dealt with it…dealt with it in a way which surprised me. With a peace and calm and strength which can only come from the Lord.
But, you don’t forget something like that. You just don’t forget. And the devil knows well our weaknesses, and how to exploit them.
My earliest memories from childhood are of lying in a pool of blood on my pillow. I suffered severe nosebleeds for the first nine years of my life. Because of this, I was anemic, and my mother hovered over me much more so than over my sisters. I was her “sickly” child, or so she unintentionally made me feel.
Yes, the devil knows our woundedness, and that terrified little girl who woke up in pools of blood, long ago learned to fear what could happen to her body…how little control she had, and she has been trying to protect herself ever since.
But somewhere inside of me there is also that brave, 26 year old…the one who stared down fear and surrendered herself, not to sickness and suffering, but to the Will of the One she loved, whatever form it might take.
She’s the one I’m praying to find.
And when I do, I will borrow her strong heart, and take my wounded child by the hand and together we will go before the One Who came to cast out all fear….
We will kneel before Him and say,
“I am Yours. I give myself to You completely. Do with me whatever You Will.”
And this time, I mean it forever…..