Exhausted by trying to plow forward in a trying time, Amanda Woodiel finds inspiration for surrender in a saint's prayer.
Soon the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola will be here (July 31), and though I know very little about St. Ignatius other than the sketch of his conversion (hurt soldier turned knight in the Lord’s army; founder of the Jesuits), when I think of St. Ignatius, I think of his prayer of surrender.
I feel like I’ve surrendered a lot over the past few months, and I bet you do too. My load isn’t that heavy, to be honest. We still have our home, our health, work, and our faith -- but all of these things look different now.
Our home no longer rings with the laughter of neighborhood kids. (Nor does it resound with that occasional profound silence I would relish when my five children were all off visiting neighbor kids.)
Our health is sound so far, thank heavens, but we “take precautions” and are required to make many more judgment calls on what is prudent for ourselves and for our children.
My husband’s work ceased for seven weeks, but now he is back at it, albeit with a Visqueen bubble over his cubicle and an increased workload from more people out of the office.
And our faith is still strong. Although we have to visit our Lord in masks, we get to visit Him still, which, after months without Him and with many churches still closed, we know is not something we should take for granted.
Our load is not heavy, but it is heavier than it was, and after months of carrying the extra weight, I notice I’m more tired physically and more weary spiritually.
My inclination is to lower my head to the ground, pull my metaphorical coat tighter around me, grit my teeth, and plow forward. In other words, to just get through it, to steel myself for the weeks and months ahead.
But at a meeting with my spiritual director lately, he encouraged me not to aim for just “getting through it,” but to actually surrender to God’s will.
I realized I have spent a lot of my life just trying to get through. I’ve gotten through five pregnancies. I’ve gotten through years of sleepless nights. I’ve gotten through months of sports seasons. I’ve gotten through the long-term illnesses and deaths of my parents. Just get through this, I think, and then I’ll move forward in the spiritual life.
I’ve had it all wrong. It’s in surrendering to the will of God that we move forward in the spiritual life. It is, I suppose, the difference between struggling to walk across the riverbed and floating down the river. After all, if I float, at least my eyes are pointed toward heaven.
In the trials of life -- in the trials of Covid -- we make our choice. Where will we focus? Will we look down and just get through it or will we look up and surrender, asking the Lord what He wants to teach us?
St. Ignatius has much to teach me in this vein. And so I’m drawn to praying his prayer of surrender as often as I can:
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess, Thou hast given me: I surrender it all to Thee to be disposed of according to Thy will.
Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.
This prayer is an act of faith. It refuses to incubate the tension of our circumstances in body, mind, and soul, and releases it instead to the Lord in trust. It is a way of rejecting the passive goal of just getting through. Instead, it is a proactive offering to the Lord of the only thing there is to offer: ourselves.
It is surrender.
Copyright 2020 Amanda Woodiel
Image: Pexels (2016)
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 11 to 3, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of her life -- both good and bad -- are pregnant with grace. She leads a moms' group at her parish that focuses on simple and meaningful ways to live the liturgical year at home. Amanda blogs at In a Place of Grace.