By Michelle Schroeder
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
I remember reading a story about two older men who attended Mass every day. At the end of each Mass, one man said to the other, “see you tomorrow,” and the other always responded, “Lord willing!”
It struck me as a sweet little story until I prayed about James 4: 13-17 (RSV):
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
I thought again about the story and the older man’s response and realized it was the ultimate statement of surrender. We know that everything happens because the Lord wills it — either explicitly or permissively. But by acknowledging that fact verbally, we are proclaiming our total reliance on him. We are surrendering our control, or rather our illusion of control, over every aspect of our lives. If we woke up this morning, it’s because God willed it. Our very existence was willed into being by the Father. That’s an incredibly powerful and sometimes scary thing to realize, much less announce.
When we quietly sit with that realization, though, it becomes so clear. The thought of total surrendering our lives to God would be terrifying if we thought of him as someone trying to trick or trap us. Maybe we envision the Father laying in wait for us to mess up so he can say, “ah-ha!” or perhaps we think he’s given us a gift so he can turn around and pull the rug out from us later. It would be impossible to trust someone whose motives we question with our lives. But the truth is that God is our loving Father. He adores us and delights in us. He willed our being out of sheer love! God is never trying to trick us; instead, he loves us so completely that he gave us free will so we can choose to love him in return. He patiently waits for us to make that choice, and when we do, He rejoices!
When we ponder the reality of God’s love for each of us, we can start to truly surrender and give Him credit for everything in our lives. This understanding leads to gratitude which is the ultimate acknowledgment of our reliance on the Father. Thanking him every day is our recognition that we rely on him for everything. God has proven his love and generosity time and time again in each of our lives, and he has even told us his motives quite plainly in his word. Our Father is just waiting on us to trust him, and Lord willing, we will each choose to do that soon.
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