By: E. Jane Rutter
“Just make your chocolate” David said, the exasperation in his voice seeping out. I laughed at his clever way of telling me to give up control and kept stirring the pot of hot fudge I was making for that night’s dessert. David wasn’t interested in hearing my two cents worth of advice about how he could spend his day. He had his own tasks to complete before the kids arrived for dinner.
Each of us has his/her own agenda, timeline, and plan. We organize our stuff in a certain way and follow daily routines in which we operate best. Call it our circadian rhythm or comfort zone, it’s what helps us feel in control. St Therese of Lisieux, has something to say about our tendency to control, saying,
“Jesus does not demand great action from us but simply surrender and gratitude.”
(2013, “Story of a Soul The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux: Third Edition Translated from the Original Manuscripts”, p.92, ICS Publications]
Control is difficult to relinquish. At its extremes, it’s rooted in egotism or lack of self-worth. The former makes us callous towards others, wanting only to satisfy our own desires. The latter causes us to view the actions of others through a defensive lens. Both are self-centered and stunt our growth as Christians. As Bishop Robert Barron points out, “In accord with the subjectivism of our culture, many Christians think of their spiritual lives in an individualist way…,” correcting that notion stating that, “…Christians exist not for themselves but for the world.”
It takes an ongoing effort to – as St Therese and St John the Baptist so wisely point out – “lessen so He can increase” (John 3:30). Surrendering our egos to open our hearts, thoughts, words, and deeds to the Holy Spirit within, we discover that we are His ‘beloved;’ that “A gift only becomes a gift when it is accepted” (Henry Nouwen). Accepting His love, secure in His love, we grow beyond selfishness to embrace an ever-increasing spirit of gratitude and giving.