I love to have goals. And I love to have a plan to accomplish those goals, and even better, life-hacks to help me accomplish that plan more easily. I’m not alone in this, hence the rise of the ‘listicle’ in popular culture. Social media is littered with articles organized into 5 short easy steps to accomplish your highest goals. Somehow we feel if we point our inner control freak in the right direction by following fool proof steps, we will accomplish what we set out to do.
This is good and helpful in many areas of life. You need a plan if you want to learn a new language, train to run a marathon or accomplish a home renovation. You need a list when you are buying groceries, and a budget to make sure there is money to pay for them.
But when it comes to your spiritual life, the paradigm changes.
So, for anyone else who is trying to tame their inner control-freak, straight from scripture here are 3 simple ways I learned to let Mercy wreck my plan to be a self-made woman, and how you can do it too.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8
Step one is to realize that God created you long before you created yourself. We spend years making ourselves into the vision of what we want to be, as a person, in our marriages, work, family life and mission in the Church. Most of the time we do this with very good intention, striving to be best version of ourselves that we can be. However, the reality is that there is no ‘best version of yourself.’ In fact, there are no ‘versions’ of yourself. You were created in the image and likeness of God, unique and beloved, and our vision of self needs to be the one and only original from Him, revealed to us as who were created to be from our conception. Only God knows that, and we can only find ourselves in His heart. So throw out your goal and search for God’s vision of your true self. Then tattoo it on your brain.
I came into my faith while I was in University. In many ways I realized that while the person I strove to become in the 10 years after that was authentic and good, much of it was based on a reaction to my previous way of living and to protect myself from wounds and my own fear of failure. In a sense, I was becoming something “good”, but based on a reaction to what I feared, instead of becoming who I was truly created to be in God’s perfect plan. Becoming who I was created to be meant letting go of how I wanted to create myself and trusting God to show me who I am.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you – Jer 1:5
[Kerrie]…you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you…Fear not, for I am with you…
[you] are called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made. Is 43:4-7
Let God Love you. Emphasis on LET.
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Cor 2:9-10
A few years after I began to embrace and live my Catholic faith, I joined Regnum Christi. The structure, spirituality, communion and mission resonated with me and I knew this was the way God wanted me to come closer to him and live my vocation as a lay person in the Church. I got very involved in a beautiful apostolate, FAMILIA, that helped young families learn how to live Catholic teaching in daily life, and I worked very hard on my life of prayer. Very hard. I had my checklist and my scruples to make sure I was accomplishing everything on it. After several years, the rush of self-conquest began to fade and I realized that in spite of all the good work, with mostly pure intention, that I was doing, I was hitting a wall. Something was holding me back from really knowing God the way I longed to.
Realizing that (of course) I must be doing something wrong, I talked to my spiritual director about it. I expressed my frustration about doing everything ‘right’ according to my plan and not attaining the closeness to God that I wanted.
He smiled and quietly reminded me that God can’t be bought with my good activities. Ouch. Together we went through my life of prayer and he listened to me explain how I wanted to grow and what I was doing. He asked me to stop doing my daily meditation the way I had constructed it for the past five years and to instead, read a part of the gospel then just really focus on the acts of Faith, Hope and Love. Not just focus on them, but in them, directly ask God to show me how much he loves me. And that’s it.
I may have looked a bit terrified as he said this, because he continued by saying ‘You are like a little kid that desperately wants to learn to swim but won’t let go of the side of the pool because you are afraid you will drown. Let go. You are like a little girl who wants to dress up and look beautiful for her father, but HE is the one who adorns you and makes you beautiful. You can’t do it yourself. You have to let him.’ I recognized the truth in what he was saying, scary as it sounded.
“[Kerrie, Kerrie], you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but only one thing is necessary.[e] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 41
I began my morning meditation with a deep breath and awkwardly put aside my routine, saying instead “Jesus, I believe you love me, I trust you and I love you…. Show me how much you love me….” And I slowly opened the tightly scrunched up eyes of my soul to begin to see, bit by bit, his vision of me. His love for me. His heart. Like different facets of a diamond, each day as I prayed this way, looking into God’s eyes I saw something a bit new, a bit known. And I relaxed, I unfolded, in His love. The active prayer plan which had really helped me for a period in my life, but whose time of being useful had passed, dissolved, as he lifted me closer to Him without my help. I let go of the side of the pool, and went under into the deep. That’s where I learned to swim. And coming up to the surface, I started to see myself in a new way.
- Live in the Deep
“Father… that they may be one even as we are one, I in [Kerrie] and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved [her] even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that [Kerrie] also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in [Kerrie], and I in [her].”
-my meditation on John 17: 22-26, with my own name in place of the pronouns….try it yourself for a powerful experience of God’s love.
I only truly know who I am in Christ’s heart. Anything else is a distortion. It’s amazing that he embraces me in my brokenness, and selfishness, immerses me in his Mercy and reminds me of the goodness of who I am in Him. After years and years of steps one and two, I know I still have many years to go, but I also recognize that who I am has changed and my goals have changed. Learning to swim in the deep end of the pool, my goals are now to live where my feet can’t touch the bottom of the ocean and I must rely on Mercy to lift me and move me. My goal is surrender, on a daily basis. Not only a passive surrender of acceptance, but an active surrender of obedience to grace in the moments he puts before me every day and the mission he has for my life. Joy in the daily schedule he gives me, peace in the problems, gratitude in the good times and in the difficult ones too.
The classic book by Jean-Pierre deCaussade ‘Abandonment to Divine Providence’ is sometimes translated as “Living the Sacrament of the Present Moment”. I highly recommend it as the path of life of someone who knows themselves in the light of God’s mercy. The word sacrament is powerful. It reminds us that God is present in each moment, each thought, each action. Living who I am created to be is meeting him there and allowing him to live my life with me. This is living prayer, praying always.
“Oceans” by Hillsong United