Today’s reflection in the series Following Jesus What Difference Does it Make comes from Paula Mitchell founder of Doorways: Praying in the Company of Jesus, providing days of prayer and longer Ignatian retreats as ways of deepening our lives with Christ. Her ministry includes individual and group spiritual direction, supervision of spiritual direction, and teaching on spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, and Ignatian Spirituality.
The Grace to Trust by Paula Mitchell
Trust, it is so easy to talk about trusting God while continuing to live an independent, self-reliant life. As I reflect upon following Jesus, my journey continues to be about learning to trust Him; that He is good, that He loves me, that His ways are better than my ways, and that He is calling me to the life He has given me right here right now. This has not been easy lesson. I have a strong tendency toward self-reliance, so the Lord keeps calling me to places where the path ahead is unclear and I am completely dependent upon His direction. I’m learning to trust God’s work and activity whether I can see it or not. This means waiting for His initiative and learning patience when nothing seems to be happening. It has meant having empty hands. I hope Margaret Silf is right when she says, “We discover that our emptiness will lead us more surely to our true purpose than our imagined fullness ever could, because God’s life and grace will flow so much more fully and freely through empty hands”. Having empty hands is uncomfortable, it is such a temptation to fill our lives with our own plans and purposes, good plans and purposes, but our plans, not His.
I’ve found that I cannot stay where I am and follow Jesus. It seems like He is always inviting me to take the next step of faith, to let go of who I think I am and where I think I’m going, to go somewhere new and unknown with Him. It means being attached to Jesus, not what I do for Him, or what others think of me, or what I have. Following Jesus I have no right to decide where, when or how God uses me. It means learning to live a life focused on listening to His voice. Learning to listen takes time; to hear God’s still, small voice I need quiet, solitude, and space to learn “to be” rather than “to do”. This means letting go, surrendering my agenda as I simply wait in God’s presence trusting His ability to speak more than my ability to listen. I can’t invite others to stop striving, to be still, to listen, and to rely on Christ’s love and presence unless I let him have His way with my life. As I live out and remember God is the agent of change I can simply look to and rely on His presence and action in myself and in others. It is not about any agenda I might have but rather a deep attentiveness to the Holy Spirit and his work in both my life and lives of those around me. This frees me up to simply follow Jesus as He leads.
Following Jesus means learning that it’s not so much about me and what I think I need and want. Dying to myself is called dying for a reason. It’s a hard, painful surrender, as I live out the reality that my life is not my own, it belongs to Christ. Living this truth I find my life gaining a singleness of purpose as I trust in God’s love and goodness. This frees me to discover and become all God created me to be in Christ. I let Him lead and simply follow trusting His love, grace and mercy. I’ve found that knowing where He is leading is not as important as knowing Jesus. To know, and live, that this journey is not about me– it is about His love, His desire for me, and His ability to use or not use my life, as He sees fit. So I’m free to simply will what God wills for me.
It is only by God’s grace that I can live this way. It goes against every fiber of my natural life to lay down my life like this and it cannot be done without God molding, shaping, and engineering the circumstances of my life as He transforms me to into the image of Christ.
(For permission to reproduce contact the author Paulaamitchell@gmail.com)