It is God working in the soul to make it like unto Himself. Perfection is neither more nor less than the faithful cooperation with this work.
— Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
I came to the Lord in a rather unusual way. I was raised Catholic, and though Catholics are not necessarily known for having (or at least professing) a personal relationship with Jesus, this young Catholic stumbled into one quite unexpectedly.It happened one day when, at the age of sixteen, I found myself reading the Bible. Inspired by the text, I said to God, “I want to devote the rest of my life to you.” It was not much of a prayer, but it must have been enough for God, because the next thing I knew, a peace and presence overcame me that I had never experienced before in my life.
From that day onward, things were different. My understanding changed. Thoughts and ideas and emotions I had not known before were now present. It was as though the presence that had come upon me never quite left. And far from being a mere source of peace, it was now a source of understanding, of inspiration, of guidance, and even of love.
But I noticed something about this presence. For one, I could feel close to it or far away from it. I also noticed that whether I felt close or far away depended a lot on this thing called motivation. That is, what was motivating me at any given moment appeared to be the deciding factor.
For example, when I wrote in my journal, the presence would often increase. But if I tried to find a way to make it increase — control it essentially — the opposite would occur. The presence would diminish. And I would be left feeling slightly yucky, as one might feel trying to manipulate a good friend.
Whether I felt close to or far away from this presence had to do with this thing called motivation. What was motivating me appeared to be the deciding factor.
For this reason, I soon made it my goal when writing to have no ulterior motives, and instead simply be open and honest with my thoughts and feelings. The result was that this presence increased even more. It was as if this presence wanted me not to control it but rather relinquish all control to it: To surrender, to be open, to trust it, even.
This, of course, was because this presence was not a mere presence; it was a Person. And that Person had a name: The Holy Spirit.
This story actually tells us something important about the Christian life. Put simply, the Christian life is ultimately about control. I do not mean that it is characterized by control, but rather, whether we succeed or fail in it ultimately boils down to who is exercising control and who we believe is in control.
We will talk about this more in coming posts. But let me say that not only is it not our job to control God, it is not His job to control us, either. Further, the fact that He is in control gives us the ability to relinquish control and cooperate with the work He is performing in us, as Caussade eloquently states above.
And this is why we have been emphasizing God’s perfect and unconditional acceptance of us through the Cross. Without this, our lives — as far as our need to be accepted and loved unconditionally — will be out of control, and we will be condemned to a life of control.
Be blessed and may God show you how in control of your life He actually is . . . down to the smallest detail.