I'm not very good at abandoning myself to God. I've asked myself all the big questions: Do I believe in God? Really? Do I believe that Jesus died for me, personally? Do I believe that God desires and has a personal relationship with me? Do I believe that God loves me? Do I believe that God is who He claims to be?
I've answered those questions, and sometimes I waver on them. Sometimes I can't believe that God really loves me...because I often find myself pretty unloveable. And I believe that Jesus did indeed walk the earth...but sometimes he just seems historical, and not real.
And here's a biggie: I know that God is a Trinity, and that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, resurrected and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, although I can only see Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine, and I can only read His words in scripture, I can't see Him bodily as He was when He walked the earth. However, Jesus rose from the dead; somewhere, He remains intact, both human and divine. Jesus has a human body. Jesus has dignified the flesh and His flesh remains immortal. Yet I can't get my mind around that. I think I'm Thomas...I need to touch His wounds, to walk His footprints, scoop up His blood...the list goes on. I believe...but it seems even my belief has certain limits. I am ashamed, yet I know that I am not alone in this. And that's where Faith steps in and fills the gaps. Faith is a gift, and also an act of the will. Yes, I choose to believe even these things, even though I can't see them. But that doesn't mean I don't sometimes struggle to believe.
And sometimes I do feel abandoned. A few years ago, a new friend said to me, "It's clear that you've been set aside." I actually misinterpreted his words, thinking "set aside" to mean a version of "pushed aside" or "abandoned", and I was somewhat insulted. Yet he didn't mean it as an insult, and in moments where maybe I'm feeling lonely or lost, his words come back to me. "Set aside" means someone set apart for a particular purpose, and thus, included more fully in God's plan. That's not nearly the same as being "abandoned". And yet, we must all learn to abandon ourselves in order to reach God.
Earlier today I wrote of the necessity of abandoning ourselves to God's will. Last Fall, for class we read St. Alphonsus de Ligouri's "Uniformity With God's Will", which is an incredible treasure, as well as a sword of conviction.
This work contains so many treasures, and works so well with Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence", which I am reading now.
Earlier today, after Mass, I wrote of the need for us to abandon ourselves into God's hands. Given that this is my struggle, given that this is the message of today's Gospel, is it any surprise that I took up my place in this book only to read this:
Holy Scripture contains one part, and the workings of the Holy Spirit within the soul do the rest, using the particular ideal reserved for you. Now it is surely obvious that the only way to receive the impress of this idea is to put oneself quietly into the hands of God, and that none of our own efforts and mental striving can be of any use at all. This work in our souls cannot be accomplished by cleverness, intelligence, or any subtlety of mind, but only by completely abandoning ourselves to the divine action, becoming like metal poured into a mold...People often rely on their intellect in their efforts to become holy, but it is not necessary. It may even hinder them. We must use only what God gives us to do and suffer.
The passage goes on, convicting me word by word. I have been fighting God for years, and I continue to do so, seemingly unable to stop. And yet He is ever-patient, ever-present, leading me step by step. I get so frustrated because I'm NOT holy, and so I read here, over and over again, that God is not frustrated with me...nothing I do will ever take Him by surprise. It is HIS job to make me Holy, and all HE asks of me is to abandon myself to Him.
It is clear to me that I don't trust God, and I do believe that not trusting God is a sin. It's a sin I can't seem to overcome, I don't know how to overcome it, and the ONLY answer is to do that which makes no sense...abandon myself to Him. In other words, take a leap hoping against hope that I will not fall into some abyss.
Abandonment seems so easy, but when we realize our true attachments and our true fears, we realize that this surrender is so impossible that only God Himself, working in and through us, can ever bring us to the pinnacle of true surrender.
It is not surprising, then, that God became Man, for it was Jesus who revealed the true meaning of Surrender! He went to the Cross, and asked us to "Follow Him", to embrace our crosses, which alone is a form of surrender, and by necessity, abandonment. We MUST be "abandoned" with our crosses, for if we are not, then we cannot be purified and we cannot be united with God! He revealed how to die to ourselves and, as Hebrews 4:15 states so succintly, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses...." Jesus was fully human, and yet abandoned himself to unspeakable torture, even unto death.
If ever we need a measure of our own holiness, we need only look to Christ and consider His sacrifice. We cannot measure up. Not through will or intellect or any other attribute; we can ONLY approach the Cross if we are called...and more importantly, if we answer that call. We all have a choice; surrender to the call, abandon ourselves to the love of God even unto the Cross...or resist God and try to make our own way, which leads only to death.