Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘surrender’

~Swallowed in Quicksand~

When I was in high school you would often see scenes in movies depicting someone being swallowed up by quicksand. It was a frightening thought to be trapped in such a seemingly helpless situation. No one could come near enough to help the person or they too would be drowning in the quicksand.

I was thinking about how grief acts much the same way…swallowing you up into itself. You feel frightened, trapped, and even helpless at times.

 Others may not want to get too close; they too may get swallowed up by this quicksand called grief.

Mostly people do not know what to say, however they mean well.

Quicksand presses in on all sides of your body

making you feel as if you will suffocate.

When you are trapped in quicksand the most important thing on your mind is surviving long enough to work your way back to stable ground. If you struggle you will plunge deeper into the mucky mud. Struggling to distance yourself from grief will only cause it to linger around longer, perhaps for the rest of your life.

Did you know the way to escape quicksand is to wiggle your legs?

The odd thing about quicksand is that it appears to be solid ground.

It looks normal. It is only when you step into it do you realize it will not support your weight.

I do not pretend to understand everything about grief. I remember when I was a still young my grandmother died. I was not ready to lose her; we had so much fun together. I can remember out of the blue after she died being overcome with grief while driving or grocery shopping. The tears would burst forth without warning. They seemed to be an essential part of the healing process.

“The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me.” Jonah 2:6

I surrender to this grief pressing against my whole being. It is futile to resist as it envelopes one’s entire being. I lie motionless waiting to float to the surface. The Lord’s own invisible hand sustains my soul. No one else would dare come that close.

The one thing you should not do if caught in quicksand, is fight with the sand. It will only make it that much more difficult to free yourself.

The human body will actually float in quicksand. You will not drown.

 In the quicksand of grief…

I give myself permission to allow the tears to drench the surface.

Fighting back with anger and denial will not bring peace to my soul; instead it will feed the grief like sour milk.

What do you think about tears? Some people do not like to cry. Some even think crying is a sign of weakness. We hear parents admonishing children ‘don’t be a cry baby’. As a society we have not learned to grieve well. We tend to put on our ‘happy face’ no matter what.

The ability to free yourself completely from quicksand takes a considerable amount of energy. I won’t bore you here with the scientific details, but to remove one foot from quicksand requires the same amount of force as lifting a mid-sized car. Wow!

“The Lord, your God, who is in your midst, is a great and awesome God.” Dt. 7:21

Release from this grief may take years, and maybe that is how it should be. When the emotional state of grief diminishes you will once again breathe in fresh air.

The memories of your loved one live on in you and through you. I am reminded of the final words of each Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass when the priest says, ‘Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit…’

Everyone who loved Jesus also experienced the quicksand of grief.

How would they continue without his earthly presence? Who would be there to guide them? To encourage them? To teach them?

Who would be there to inspire them to be better than they were?

Those who loved Jesus were no different than us. They had all the same emotions, hopes, and fears. The Emmaus journey encapsulates all that it means to be human in a few well written verses.

“I, the Lord, am with you always, until the end of the world.” Mt. 28: 20

Without Grief would we ever be able to recognize much less appreciate Joy?

Accepting versus Giving Up

As you recite this prayer recently shared with me… Draw each phrase into your heart… pray to be free of what keeps you from pleasing God more.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude” 

~Accepting versus Giving Up~

So we have come to a point…is it acceptance or is it giving up? What a question to ponder. I think sometimes it is appropriate to use the phrase “giving up”. I have given up on the idea of acting on stage…snow skiing…deep sea diving…having my own_____…and many other things.

I have definitely given up on the thought of ever being the perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbor, or friend.

I have given up trying to please everyone in my life and living up to others expectations of me.

I have accepted what God has laid out before me right now. Accepting that God’s will for us is sometimes not what we want. God has prepared me for where I am right now. Even if I was unaware of this preparation; it was occurring as the path of my life daily unfolded.

Accepting is NOT giving up!

Giving up usually has some negative overtones. We often encourage others by admonishing them to ‘never give up’. To me, giving up can represent defeat or despair. When a person is giving up to law enforcement they raise their hands above their head, palms facing out. You may even be commanded to drop to your knees so as not to run away.

During Lent I may choose to give up those things that would represent a sacrifice to me, but when you are facing something like death you are Not giving up.

When you surrender to God your hands are raised above your head, but your palms are facing up toward heaven. At times you may prostrate yourself before Our Lord realizing that you are powerless without him.

 

Accepting leads us, as Christians, to surrendering to God’s will.

 

  ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts neither  are your ways My ways’, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

 

Hanging on the cross Jesus cried out to his father…into your hands I commend my spirit.

 

 Jesus found the strength to utter those words only after crying words of anguish…My God, my God why have you forsaken me? It is through dying that we are born again. Only through dying to our ‘old self’ can we be fully alive in Christ.

 

Lord, you alone can turn my tears into tears of joy!

Lord, only you can transform my sadness into happiness!

Lord, only you can soothe the invisible pain in my heart!

 

 

I do not know who Herman Hesse is, but his words here touched a place deep within my soul. 

Some of us think holding on makes us strong,

but sometimes it is letting go.

 

Soul Stirrings: Waiting in Silence

Holy Saturday is about silent waiting. Jesus has been laid in the tomb, wrapped in the traditional burial cloths, and sealed in darkness with a large stone. We wait in the stillness of his promise of Resurrection. It is as if we are between breaths, the emptiness between words on a page. We wait with Mary.

Perhaps the women knew best this holding…this pause in the Divine plan. The other apostles may have still been in fear for their own safety, but the women kept watch. The women kept the hope alive through their silent waiting.

The agony of the crucifixion left them all numb and now there was this awful time of waiting. This kind of waiting I have experienced with many loved ones; as they wait for test results. In real life this silent waiting period does not always end in the Resurrection we had hoped. Sometimes the Resurrection is delayed and we may need to sit inside this Holy Saturday state a bit longer.

The Blessed Mother finds herself waiting again just as she was before the birth of Jesus. Once again she surrenders to the will of God the Father.

A mother feels such intense pain deep within at the loss of a child; Mary undoubtedly felt this agony mixed with the promise of her beloved Son’s Resurrection.

How she must have longed to hear his voice one more time…to look into his precious loving eyes. How she must have longed to hold him once again in her arms.

She might have heard echoing in her memory the words Simeon spoke, “And your own soul a sword shall pierce”.

She waited patiently filled with hope, clinging to the words her son spoke of returning on the third day. In spite of the stone blocking her from entering into the tomb with him; she kept watch nearby. In spite of the darkness within the tomb, Mary clings to hope.

The Blessed Mother is a brilliant example for us of Faith, Hope, and Love.  

Today the church leaves us in the stillness of darkness and sorrow to contemplate that Jesus died for each of us. The church appears barren. We have no Mass, no Holy Communion, and no Adoration.

We wait with Mary in silence.

Soul Stirrings: Surrendering

What does it mean to surrender? To yield to the power, possession, control of another…to give up completely. In a military situation the weaker side may be faced with surrendering in order to prevent bloodshed. Sometimes we surrender or ‘give in’ because we are just tired or frustrated with the circumstances of our life.

But I want us to consider what it means to surrender in the scriptural sense…the relinquishment of one’s own will to that of a higher power…surrendering to God.

When you think of someone surrendering you probably can visualize the person’s arms stretched out and raised high up.

Surrendering to God however; presents a different visualization, one of a person totally relying on the grace and guidance of God not in a position of defeat.

Surrendering to God allows us to let go and let God take over in our lives. Surrendering to God allows us to let him lead us in all that we do with our life. Let’s look a minute at the Prophet Jonah. Jonah ultimately was led to surrender to God in order to save his fellow seamen from the violent waters. God saved Jonah in the belly of a large fish and spewed him out after three days and three nights. (Remind you of anything?) Jonah attempted to ignore what God asked of him by fleeing only to find that his presence on the ship caused trouble.

Jonah says in 1:12 “…Pick me up and throw me into the sea…since I know it is because of me that this violent storm has come upon you.” He ultimately surrenders to God’s will and is later instrumental in saving Nineveh.

Now I want you to consider Queen Esther. Esther in a time of distress for her people prostrates herself upon the ground, together with her handmaids from morning until night. Begging for God to help her, Esther prays “Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God.” Prayer of Esther C: 12-30. Esther surrenders herself to the mercy and intervention of God.

Prostrating oneself before the Lord is such an outward sign of surrendering. I am reminded of how prostration is such an important part of the Ordination to the Priesthood ceremony. Laying face down on the floor signifies before the whole community their complete surrender to do the will of God.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus surrenders himself into the hands of his Father with these words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This was an echo from Psalm 32:6 which Jesus certainly knew well. This beautiful verse is also prayed daily in the Divine Office during the final prayer of the day.

When things seem to be out of control in your life; recall this verse. “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Make it your mantra.

What do you find difficult about surrendering?

 

 

What are you WAITING for?

Advent Reflections Week 1:  

We have been waiting from the moment we were conceived. Who knows maybe we were even waiting to be conceived to just the right parents. Once we were conceived gestational waiting was only about nine months. While waiting we were a bundle of activity; our tiny bodies were developing at a remarkable rate.

Even while waiting much inner activity can be occurring; activity not seen externally. Waiting is not a time to fall asleep but a time to watch and keep vigil. A time to prepare for what will be after the waiting period ends.

Little children know the frustration of waiting for Christmas or their next birthday. Children eagerly wait to lose their first tooth…to start school…and later to go out on a first date…drive…get a job. So many things to wait for.

Sadly some are waiting for their next warm meal…a warm place to sleep…or a job.

Some are waiting for a test result hoping for a clean bill of health.

Some are waiting for a loved one to return home from military service.

The truth is we are all waiting for something.

The beauty of advent is that every year we are reminded that for Jesus to become flesh he too had to enter into the human gestational waiting period. He had to wait in the darkness of the womb of Mary.

Mary too had to wait amidst much joy and anxiety for this period of waiting to be completed. Mary and Jesus had to wait before their first physical embrace. Mary had to wait before she could gently caress Jesus and cradle him in her arms…lovingly gaze into his eyes…give him a butterfly kiss on the cheek.

Jesus had to wait before he could be about his father’s business. Jesus had to wait before his appointed time to fully embrace his divinity within his humanity. Jesus had to wait to choose his followers from varied walks of life. Jesus had to wait for his disciples to recognize and acknowledge who he was. Jesus had to wait for his Ressurection from the tomb.

As a pregnant mother waits she is also getting in touch with how her body is changing. She is bonding and growing to love this new life within. Advent is a time for us to get in touch with God, the Father, a time to bond our heart and soul to him. Advent is a time to consider our personal relationship with Jesus, the Son. Advent is a time to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us with unconditional Divine Love.

As you light the Advent candle of this first week, pray for the gifts that only waiting can bring. Gifts of patience and surrender for what is to come.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us, says Joseph Campbell.

There is so much inside of us waiting to be discovered, nurtured. Now is the time to truly let go and let God. The ‘day is at hand’ let us not miss what we are waiting for.

Darkness is waiting for light…Hatred for love…War for peace…Cold for warmth…Poverty for wealth…Broken for healing…Noise for silence…Winter for Spring…

Advent is a time to honor all that we are waiting for.

So I ask, “What are you waiting for?”   God is waiting for YOU!

May you be Blessed in all of your waiting.

We eagerly wait for your comments.