One of the prayers I’ve been repeating to myself frequently these past few months is a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.”
It’s taken from a longer reflection: “We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s alright, everything is alright. We must say, ‘I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.”
I’m slowly realizing that my deep desire is to be able to tell this to God in all honesty: “You can do whatever you like.” It is an ongoing, momentous stretch for me. I’m a pretty laid-back person about most things (at least I like to think I am!), and it’s because of this that I never really thought of myself as much of a control freak. I have found that in some aspects I was entirely wrong.
There are certainly things in my life that I’m OK leaving unplanned, uncoordinated, or uncontrolled, and I even tend to be spontaneous about many things in life. However, it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to opening myself up to the possibility of discomfort or being hurt.
For many, 2020 has been uncomfortable, burdensome, and even extremely painful. Some have lost their jobs, businesses, entire livelihoods. There are those who have battled increased depression and anxiety due to our new COVID-induced, stationary way of life. And, there are, of course, those who have been gravely ill, to the point of death. There are families who have undergone the painful loss of loved ones.
Who of us was able to welcome these losses with open arms, yielding to Jesus, saying, “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like?!”
Yet, here we are, now ringing in a new season of the anticipation of an imminent, divine birth. Last time I checked, birth is usually preceded by something else—torturous labor pains! In the Catholic tradition, many believe that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was exempt from the pangs of labor (due to her freedom from original sin). For the rest of us, however, we can assume that in order to reap the highest joys of this divine birth, we will or have been called to endure some form of purifying pangs.
Jesus is about to do something new for us! He wants to be born in our hearts, and our ability to let Him do this will likely cost us something. St. Teresa of Calcutta knew this. She understood that to let Jesus do all He wanted in her life, she would have to yield to Him. How hard this can be!
Who wants to welcome pain or loss into their lives? The very thought repels our human and fleshy nature. We are wired, biologically and culturally, to provide for and protect ourselves. We conduct the things of life so that we can live comfortably, and we protect ourselves from things that might harm us.
This is not the way of sainthood some of us may be called to, though.
If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s alright, everything is alright.
Everything is alright!? I don’t like to be sick. I fight it and don’t welcome it. I don’t want to clean toilets all day, either!
There’s just one problem, though. I want to be a saint. I want to wake up in the next life and see the bright, loving face of Jesus. So…I must learn. I must learn to say, “that’s alright, everything is alright.”
If we want to discover the path and joyful freedom God calls us to, we have to be able to give God our “alright.” “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.”
I want to challenge you, reader and friend, during these last ten days leading up to the true beginning of Christmas. I’d like to challenge you to make the rest of this Advent your version of EPIC. How can you take a step back, let go of your Christmas plans and preparations for a second, and say, “You can do whatever you like” to the Savior who is on His way for you?
In this short remaining time, if we let ourselves calm down, stop fretting, and let go of our own will, we might be able to receive more of the miracle coming our way.
One of the biggest lies we can buy into is believing that God doesn’t have our backs. Believing that we know how to take care of or provide for ourselves better than He can and will. How could this be true!? God loves us more than we are even capable of loving. He will always lead us down the path that is most fruitful for our hearts and souls.
As we claim that truth, you and I can take one more step towards letting go.
And letting go doesn’t have to mean perfection, or that we’ve prayed exactly enough, or that we’ve austerely denied ourselves any Christmas-spirited joy before December 25th. No – letting go is a journey. It’s a journey of learning how to tell Jesus with sincerity, “You can do whatever you like.”
Start small, friend. I’ve started by just bringing these words into my daily prayer. “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.”
I promise that if whatever He likes ends up hurting you or costing you something, there is something so much bigger, grander, and miraculous on the other side of it.
I’m praying for you, reader! As this tough year comes to a close and we ring in Jesus’ birth, let us anticipate with joy the mysterious, good plans God has for us when we say, “You can do whatever you like!”