On His Terms, Not My Terms

Looking back on my long and oftentimes challenging journey toward understanding my faith, I can say that the crucial turning point that truly pointed me toward the right direction happened when I just simply dropped on my knees, dropped my arms helplessly and said to the Lord, “I’m done, I cannot fight You anymore – You win!” Up to that point it had been a battle of wills – mine against His – in everything that I wanted to do. And they were not bad things, really – at least I could say honestly that I had good intentions underlying most of them – praying for loved ones and other people that they may be spared from hurt or that they recover from horrible illnesses. I really did not pray to be a millionaire or to be able to stop working – I just wanted to be able to save a little and not live from day to day. I did not pray for a perfect marriage – I just prayed that some days would be tolerable. Through the rejection of my prayers I perceived God to be indifferent, or inflexible, or sometimes harsh. Of course I still believed God – I just had trouble believing that He loved me or cared that I was in pain. That day when I stopped fighting against Him, I was probably reacting with a bite of sarcasm, as if to say, yup, go ahead, one more blow would not matter anymore because I was that close to being ground anyway. So – do as You will, Lord.

And what an amazing God we have! It didn’t matter to Him that I was being sarcastic, or being facetious, or being rhetorical even, when I surrendered and uttered those words. He grabbed those words, treated them as if they had a trace of goodwill in them (no, they did not!), accepted them as if I really meant them, and then with a serious of blows that knocked me completely down, He sent me on the road that eventually took me to where I am today, writing this reflection for you. But the difference with those blows was that each one sent me to the right direction and somehow I was able to survive each one with less damage than I had expected. Because I was too tired to argue or worry, the meager energy I had left gave me the chance to receive the grace of His Providence. Imagine me as a huge, unwieldy ship in the midst of a stormy and raging sea, finally yielding to the churning waters and letting me be led by the waves and, eventually, be aground in a quiet cove. All it took for God was that tiny opening in my resolve and the more I yielded the less it felt that He was yanking my hand. It took me a little but since I was still a smarty-pants, I did put God into a little “experiment.” On some days I would deliberately be stubborn and then observe how my day would go and end.

Conclusion – horrible days. On some days I would really try my best to be obedient. Smile to a person who was not a nice person? Check. Do one more chore although I was dead tired? Check. Not fall asleep in church? Check. Go to mass although there was a storm? Check. Forgive? Check. Understand? Check. Love? The hardest part of all, but yes, a check. Conclusion – awesome days! The days that I predicted to turn out horrible because they were days that put me out of control and out of the logical and predictive relationship between absence of “irritants” and happiness turned out to be my introduction to that interior world where joy and peace existed, “beyond understanding,” as Saint Paul said. Because I had given God just a little space He showed me an entirely different dimension that had not been possible because my will had been in the way.

With my will broken down, I received the grace to revisit the obedience of Jesus, the Divine Son, and the obedience of Mary, the ordinary human. With my will out of the way and not filtering what messages I should see or how I should see them, it was easier for me to reflect on their obedience and submission and relate it to a dimension raised by God’s grace, completing the whole picture that included the fact that I am loved and including the fact that the God who loves me is sovereign over all, ALL, things, time, dimensions – ALL. Between my good intentions, no matter how good I think they are, and His intentions, no matter how horrible situations seem to be, lies the fork in the road, and that is where I put down humbly and, most of the time nowadays, with a little more trust than before, my will, and I say, “dear God, not on my terms, but Your terms. I do not understand, but I do know that You are the better writer of my life than me, so please write my life for me – so please, begin it, AND end it, as You please. As You are a very good writer of suspense also, I know that what you write will surprise me or be unpleasant to me, but whatever way it goes, Your Terms will always be the best. I may or may not know the ending, but I know You have the knack of turning even the worst into the most good. Give me the grace to trust You, and hand over to You, my life.”

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