by Marjorie George
A friend was getting a divorce, one of the painful kind. “Don’t sign the papers,” her counselor cautioned her, “until you can walk away with a skip in your step, knowing you have done everything you can do and it’s time to move on.”
It’s the difference between giving up and surrender. Giving up says, “I quit.” Surrender says, “I accept.” I accept the circumstances of my life as it is today. I accept that I do not have the control over it that I thought I had. I accept that God is aware and walks with me.
To be sure, we are called and anointed and empowered to participate in the reconciliation of the world to God. But some things are beyond our power to affect and will only be brought to perfection on the other side when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.
In the faith journey of God’s people, we once believed that God’s favor toward us was revealed in the health, wealth, and happiness he poured upon us. Worldly struggles were to be overcome by working harder, seizing power where we could, resolving issues through battles to see who was bigger, stronger, and more wily. Our hope rested in our human abilities to stand strong and bulldoze our way forward. If life pushed in on us we pushed back, deadening the effects of the disappointments of our lives with the latest self improvement program or by working harder, drinking more, and popping those pain killers. Frequently we pointed out to God, to absolutely no effect, that quite frankly we thought we deserved better.
We were learning that the rocky road of the spiritual journey, for all of its joy, demands we face some hard truths, including that it’s not about me.
And the deeper we go into the journey, the more we learn to let go rather than acquire, to accept instead of rail against. The more we shed our illusions that we are masters of our own fate, the more we realize that our residency is not of this world but of God’s kingdom where “thieves cannot break through and steal” our peace and our joy (see Matthew 6:20).
Yes it’s hard. Yes our hearts will break from time to time. Yes we will know disappointment, betrayal, injustice (It’s not fair! No, it’s not.) and crippling pain physically, emotionally and spiritually. We rightly work for reconciliation. Some circumstances in the world, in our society, in our relationships must be changed, but some situations are beyond our power to do so. The old serenity prayer asks for the wisdom to know the difference.
“Healthy religion,” says Richard Rohr, “is an enthusiasm about what is, not an anger about what is not.” When we accept that and “come to ourselves” we, like the Prodigal son (Luke 15:17-20), will turn toward home and find God hitching up his garments and running down the road to meet us.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and Reflections online. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.