When I was a teenager I was blessed to belong to a youth group called Our Lady of Guadalupe Teens for Life. We met weekly, often participated in Eucharistic Adoration, prayed the Rosary, watched Catholic films, enjoyed games and fellowship. A video we watched that still stands out in my memory was one about St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It interspersed images of her life and work with short interview clips. Recently, as I listened to a song, I was reminded of her words that made a deep impression on me: “To accept to be cut to pieces and yet every piece to belong only to Him. This is the surrender.”
One of the ways that God helps me surrender to Him is through music. While waiting at a drive-through recently, I heard the song “Multiplied” by NeedtoBreathe. The lyrics resonated with me:
Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us, we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name.
God of mercy, sweet Love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these hallelujahs be multiplied.
Each of us goes through times in life when we are broken and torn, wounded by life’s storms. It is easy to wallow in these moments, tempted to feel discouraged and abandoned. Surely, it is natural to shrink away from pain; Jesus Himself sweat drops of blood in His agony in the garden, as He reflected upon the sufferings to come. Yet, our Lord—who became an outcast and endured even the rejection of His closest friends—reminded us how to pray in these trials: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet, not my will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
When we are floundering, God does not forsake us or leave us alone. Even when God seems hidden and we don’t feel His love, His compassion for us is brilliantly shining (Habakkuk 3:4). St. Josemaria Escriva counsels: “Don’t complain if you suffer. It is the prized and valued stone that is polished. Does it hurt? Allow yourself to be cut, gratefully, because God has taken you in his hands as if you were a diamond. An ordinary pebble is not worked on like that.” Often times, when we look back at the times when nothing made sense and everything seemed hopeless, we realize how magnanimous and tender God was in weaving the tapestry of our lives. Perhaps the path we were on would have led to destruction, so He rerouted us to safeguard us, and lead us to authentic joy.
It’s easy to try to “white knuckle” our way through life, and pull ourselves up by our boot straps, when—in reality—we are really little and helpless without God. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us that:
Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her need—everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace—because everything is God’s gift. Whatever the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.
When “Surrendering himself to God, with all his troubles, a person agrees to allow himself to be saved by Another One.” (Abandonment to God: The Way of Peace of St. Therese of Lisieux, Fr. Joel Guibert)
At my parish, there is a beautiful mural of Jesus reaching out and holding on to St. Peter’s arm as he starts to sink beneath the waves. Reflecting on this image, the power of Christ’s redeeming love for us is evident. It reminds me of the words of the song “I Am,” by Crowder: “Take me in with your arms spread wide/Take me in like an orphan child/Never let go, never leave my side.”
Awhile back, when my faith was being tested, I picked up a hymnal in a chapel and a bookmark fell out. On it was a beautiful picture of a little baby resting in his father’s arms, smiling, and swaddled in a blanket. Imprinted on the bookmark are the words: “Entrust yourself to God as a child would entrust himself to his father. HE WILL NEVER LET YOU FALL.” The bookmark also happened to have my initials imprinted on it! This “post card” from Heaven was a wonderful reminder of God’s Mercy and the confidence we should place in His care.
One of my Great Grandmother Hamel’s favorite poems by St. John Henry Newman begins:
I learn, as the years roll onward
And leave the past behind,
That much I had counted sorrow
But proves that God is kind;
That many a flower I had longed for
Had hidden a thorn of pain,
And many a rugged bypath
Led to fields of ripened grain.
There is a freedom in total surrender; it is like letting yourself be held as a child in your mother’s arms. When we abandon ourselves to God, we realize that we are not abandoned by God. Although we do not understand His plan, we trust that the Divine Artist—who is infinitely good, loving, and merciful—wills to form us into the masterpiece that He has called us to be.
There is a story about a little girl named Jenny who had a set of toy pearls. They were Jenny’s favorite possession. Jenny loved her father very much. Before she went to bed, Jenny’s father tucked her in and she told him that she loved him. He asked her, “Jenny, will you give me your pearls?” Jenny couldn’t let them go, regardless of how much she loved her father, and this went on for several nights. Finally, one night, Jenny tearfully gave the toy pearls to her father. In return, he gave her a specially wrapped box and said “I’ve been waiting to give this to you.” Inside were a beautiful set of real pearls.
So, how do we totally surrender ourselves to God? Speaking of the Eucharistic Revival Project recently introduced by the US Bishops, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, repeatedly encouraged Eucharistic Adoration, proclaiming: “There’s a strong sense among those who work with young people that this encounter [with Jesus] happens profoundly through Eucharistic Adoration.” Growing up, my youth group only had about 12 members: three became priests, one is a religious, one is discerning the life of a Consecrated Virgin in the world, and the others are leading holy married or single lives. Regardless of our age, all of us need to spend time in child-like trust regularly with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Allowing Our Lady to lead us closer to her Son through the Holy Rosary, immersing ourselves in Catholic culture, and staying united with Catholic believers are essential in surrendering our lives to Christ.
Image: BERLIN, GERMANY, FEBRUARY – 14, 2017: The Fresco of Peter, walking on water toward Jesus in Herz Jesus church by Friedrich Stummel and Karl Wenzel from end of 19. and beginn of 20. cent. Shutterstock: Renata Sedmakova