By Judy Klein
Have you ever secretly thought that you aren’t much like Mary, you probably never will be, and you aren’t even sure you want to be? To be quite truthful, I have.
My doubts about being like Mary stemmed from the misguided notions that in order to resemble Mary 1) God would have to zap my rather boisterous personality completely away 2) I would lose my voice and my identity, and 3) a degree of holiness would be required of me that is simply unrealistic and unattainable.
After many years, I finally came to understand that to be like Mary is, as Colleen C. Mitchell beautifully articulates in Chapter 1 of her book, to be “a dwelling place of the Most High God.” In other words, we are called to stand in the image of the Woman by assuming an open, willing stance to the plans and purposes of God, and in so doing to become a Christ-bearer and Christ-birther for the world.
It is to this exalted calling that Mary points us, and it is her example that we are specifically called to imitate. Such a mission will manifest itself differently in the life of every person, given our unique histories, circumstances, temperaments and gifts. But the one thing we all have in common with Mary is God’s plan for us to believe, receive, conceive and birth Christ to the world.
So how does this high and holy calling unfold for each of us individually?
The answer lies in our own graced fiat, in our simple and ongoing “yes” to God. Yes to the self-surrender of our entire being to the mighty, merciful One. Yes to personal and intimate communion with the lover of our souls. Yes to the Bridegroom’s invitation to marry him, carry him, and tarry in his love. Yes to an ever-expanding welcome to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Sounds wonderful, right?
Yet if you’re like me, you may sometimes experience yourself as a naysayer instead of as a yes-giver and life-bearer. You might blanche at the thought of earnestly praying may it be done unto me. You may find yourself bumping up against your own internal fears and objections as you question what wholly surrendering to God really means. Our fiat can feel like “I will not” as God invites us to let him come in more deeply, and as we wonder:
Does my yes to God require some kind of spiritual heroics or mental gymnastics? What if I’m not good enough, strong enough, or up to the task of bearing Christ?
Again, we must look to Mary to learn what it means to become a Christ-bearer—a dwelling place of God. Mary simply says “yes”—and God does the rest. Mary surrenders to God, and God’s presence comes to indwell her. Mary trusts, and God proves that he is trustworthy. If we ponder Mary’s great Magnificat, we see that all of her emphasis is on God’s greatness, might and mercy—even as she recognizes herself to be lowly, hungry and poor.
Mary’s greatest “achievement” was that she handed herself completely over to God. And when she did, his tangible presence and glory filled her small temple. God’s initiative and power accomplished far more in Mary than she asked for or imagined. And the same can be true for us. All we need do is be still before God, listen and say yes. And trust that God will do the rest.
- What feelings are invoked when I consider radically surrendering myself and my life to God? Fear? Hope? Joy? Doubt? Confidence in God? Or perhaps a mixture of many feelings?
- What (or who) am I holding onto that I am afraid to turn over to God?
- Am I willing to surrender now?
Father in heaven, I thank you for your tender mercies, which are new every morning. I give myself wholly to you, asking you to send your Spirit to rest on me, as it rested on Mary. Give me the grace, strength and courage to hand everything and everyone in my life over to you, especially myself and my loved ones. Make me a temple of your glory and a conduit of the presence of your Son, Jesus Christ. Give me the grace to trust as Mary did and to pray always, “Let it be done unto me.” Amen.
About the Author
Judy Landrieu Klein is an author, theologian and inspirational speaker whose first book, Miracle Man, an Amazon Kindle bestseller in Catholicism, chronicles her late husband Bernie’s near death experience and miraculous deathbed conversion. Her new book, Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God, is a CatholicMom.com imprint book published by Ave Maria Press. Judy shares her insights about the spiritual life at her blog, Holy Hope, which can be found at MemorareMinistries.com.
I struggle to surrender MY kids including all my worries, hopes, and dreams for them, over to God. Forgetting GOD loved them first and he loves them more!! Mary was a mama just like me (except she had mastered that whole GRACE thing. ha ha). I long for peace in my heart about their future, trusting God as Mary did, knowing HE always has the greatest good for us in His Plans!
I can relate Allison. I have not yet read Judy’s book Mary’s Way, but it is on my wish list and know that it would be helpful in this area, especially as I navigate adolescence from the parenting side for the first time.
Judy, thanks for these words to ponder. I have found an extreme sense of relief since I have learned to let go and surrender to God. After all, He knows everything and sees the “end game’ in all of our lives. Therefore, I have begun to realize: why not trust Him to lead me down the most expeditious path? In the past, leading myself and depending on my own abilities has often resulted in unnecessary pain and detours in my life which could have been avoided. God’s way far surpasses my expectations and wildest imagination. Therefore, “Jesus I trust” in you has become my mantra. Surrender is truly the easier way, therefore, like a child, I say, “OK dad!” Like a spouse, “Sure, my Beloved.” Like a Temple, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come.”
Karen, I like the way that you captured your process. It resonates with me. The last couple of years I have been trying to be more intentional with considering God’s will and to trust in his understanding of the bigger picture that I will never be able to grasp. However, aligning my life to God’s will has been messier than I had anticipated, so I find great solace in Biblical stories, like Jonah’s thinking about how even if we get off track, God can redirect us.
I feel the same way that Judy feels – completely surrendering and fearing I will lose myself. Not only myself but also relationships. I already feel like I’m “outside looking in”… in friendships and sadly even in my family. I want to give GOD my “YES” but I want my friends and family members to do the same so that we are all in it together. Ugh 🙁
When I reverted back to the Catholic faith 10 years ago, I THOUGHT for sure my enthusiasm would rub off on my fallen family. Um. Well, nope. But… I will never lose hope. I did learn quickly I can’t share as much as I want LOL #JesusFreak I do not hide my faith, and have really seen growing respect from most of them – which is a start.
As I have gotten older and after way too much head banging against the wall when things are working out because I want it done my way and after having been beaten down in so many different ways, I have discovered that if I surrender it ALL to God everything goes so much better and in fact things usually turn out so much better than I could have ever imagined. But it is SO hard to “let go and let God”! My stubbornness and fears get in the way! I believe that the Blessed Mother had overcame that and for that I use her as my role model to get through life.
OH what wisdom!!! You are right it does usually turn out better than I imagined or hoped. I am so stubborn to wanting my way … and fearful when I think about it not going my way. These are huge obstacles to trusting God and surrendering as Mary did.
I am praying today to let go of all expectations of how my life should be, and simply rest in the loving and merciful embrace of both God’s providence and his perfect provision for my highest good. Prayers and blessings to all of you today.
Thank you Judy for blessing us with such a beautiful reflection. I am going to repeat your prayer for myself today as well !
Before being able to surrender to God’s Will, it was most important for me to learn how to recognize all that He has done for me in the past, to see His Hand in my life each and every day, and most importantly, to stop and thank Him every single time. Having been somewhat of a control-freak and agnostic for most of my life until about 12 years ago, this was truly a learning curve. Our Blessed Mother has been such a beautiful example for me in so many ways, but especially in how she pondered things in her heart and gave her Yes so completely.
Looking back, it is amazing how much God has allowed me to grow into a more trusting and thankful disciple, and how much more peace this has brought to my life. There are still times when it’s difficult for me to loosen my iron grip on things that I think I need to control but as a whole, I’ve learned to hand over the reins rather sooner than later.
Diana, this is a beautiful testimony. Hindsight is such a gift!!
OH You will have to teach me though how to let go of those reins, I have a rather tight grip!
My “fiat” becomes a reality only when I have the courage to look to the past to see His saving goodness and mercy in all the events of my life. Only then can I turn and look forward to the foggy future and know it too is held in His Loving Hands. My glance to the past is a repentance and a cry of thank You for His grace. My turn to face toward His future for me is born anew in “fiat” to whatever He asks of me. I surrender, Lord, you take care of all my life. Amen.
These personal insights are so profound and heartfelt. Thank you all for sharing.
I have reached a point in my life where I know I need to let go and give Jesus a chance to bring His peace and direction to my troubled soul. I have tried in past but keep taking back the reins back into my own hands. I will try to emulate Mary and give my personal “fiat” as I begin anew.
I’m reading a new book for Total Consecration – by Fr. Ed Broom. It is so good. In it, each day he gives us prayers to offer to our Blessed Mother. I love that most start with BEG HER for xyz … YES, BEG! I’m in That I can do. I struggle so much to let go and give God the reins. IF I do hand them over, I still want to give directions #BackoftheHorseDriver ha ha ha
A little over 2 years ago I read Fr. Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory for the first time and through it began to think about Mary more consistently and intentionally. I am drawn to and admire her yes. What has been the harder part for me was thinking that often I don’t have the clarity she had about what to do, so my plea has been more of I want what you will for me, but I am confused related to different layers of life when trying to discern. However, over time, I have realized that while Mary knew her big overall yes, she didn’t know all the details and how it is the lack of details that requires the bigger faith and is an avenue to lean into God as I navigate the thought process.
Amen Amanda! Great reflection