Do you ever feel afraid that giving your life to God will result in him making you do something you don’t want to do? Do you worry that his plan can’t make you happy? Do you avoid thinking or praying about putting God in the driver’s seat, and instead only give him what is comfortable for you to give? This one’s for you (and who doesn’t struggle with these, amiright?)
Four years ago-ish I sat in confession, tears brimming in my eyes. “I am trying to discern my vocation, but I’m so afraid of what I’ll hear. I’m afraid God will ask me to do something I don’t want to do.” The priest’s response was consoling and simple. He then handed me a bookmark with a prayer titled “Prayer of Surrender” and advised me to pray it slowly.
I did, and it changed everything.
I began to recite the prayer the next day. Parts of it read like a litany: “I surrender to you my whole self- my body, my mind, my memory, my imagination, my weaknesses, my past, my future…” As I got to one part, I felt a physical knot in my stomach. Surrendering that part of me was hard. It really burned to hand it over. What if God took away all these things I cared about? I knew I wasn’t going to handle loss well. I imagined mentally kickboxing my guardian angel in the face if he appeared and told me “God’s going to take away everything you want. Haha! You’re a sucker for giving him blanket permission!”
A flash of anger followed next. I thought, “why doesn’t God care what I want? so I give him 99% of my life, and this prayer is telling me I have to still give him that last 1%???”
Yes, I do.
I have always loved being in control. (Can I get an amen from my fellow control freaks?) When I was fresh out of college I spent my time doing what I wanted. Everyone encouraged me to follow my dreams. “You should be a dance-ah. I always wanted to be a dance-ah” said my grandma in her Massachusetts accent as I told her about my desire to dance and sing on Broadway. I had this inflated sense of who my life belongs to. I thought it was me!
Following my own dreams with no regard for God’s opinion always kept me in the driver’s seat, and that needed to change if I was going to love God for who he is.
For months I battled. I would go to the chapel, pray the prayer of surrender, and feel okay with saying about 80% of it. There was always something, and often several things, that I struggled so, so hard to hand over. Ugly cries ensued. But as the weeks went on, I started to notice a change in myself.
When you hand over your life to God, you no longer feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. Your soul has more room for joy.
I started to feel freer. When life stopped being all about me getting what I wanted, I could just be and be okay with whatever happened. Then I became a hippie. Just kidding. I wrote that because it sounded like that’s where this paragraph was headed. I’m struggling to express exactly what the prayer of surrender did, because it was an entire shift in my outlook on life.
Now, I don’t want anyone to say after reading this, “she said my dreams aren’t important and that we should just do whatever we think God wants even if that’s not what we want.” I’m not saying that at all. Your dreams are important and knowing them is a significant part of discerning (I feel another blog post brewing about how your dreams mesh with God’s plan…) I’m just saying that it’s best to start by handing everything over to him sincerely.
Handing everything over to God takes the pressure off you. It gives you air to breathe and just say, “Okay God, I’m trying really hard and I love you, but I don’t know what you want right now. So I’ll just give you everything and I trust you will help me figure it out.”
Surrendering creates the space in your soul for God to fill it with more good things than you can imagine.
Besides my vocation, surrendering everything to God has helped me know his will, and follow my own dreams too. I’ll share two stories here if you’ll indulge me. A few weeks ago, I was at a breaking point. The kids were running me ragged and I found out that I had most likely lost a speaking engagement I thought I would be invited to, because there was a miscommunication about my availability for it. I was questioning whether I should even pursue being a speaker any more. I was feeling totally upset and like a failure until I recalled the simple truth. “If God wants it, I will be a speaker. He will open doors. This ministry ain’t for Stacey anyway; it’s for his glory. It’s not about me being fabulous or influential or funny. It’s about helping souls find their way to him, and if he wants me to do it in this way he will see to it.” I gave it to him.
Immediately, the turmoil left me. If I never got another speaking engagement it’s because that’s not the all-good, all-loving God’s plan for me right now. I could breathe and enjoy the rest of the day with my kids instead of being upset and hard on myself. The next day, I found out that not only was I invited to speak, but that I would be giving two talks!
Scenarios work out so much better when God orchestrates them.
Again, another recent example- I have been struggling to build a women’s small group in my local area. I know I need community, and it’s just really hard to find for various reasons. In adoration last week I finally gave the whole situation to God after months of trying to figure it out myself. That evening, I saw another mom wearing a miraculous medal at the public playroom. I approached her and we got to talking. (On a side note, kudos to her for wearing a miraculous medal! I always enjoy spotting a fellow Catholic’s jewelry choice and feeling like we’re in a club with a secret handshake or something.) It turns out she had been leading a women’s book club but had discerned she was too busy to lead. She was extremely interested in joining my group, and also connected me with eleven other women instantly who had been regular attendees at her club. I tell ya, you can’t make this stuff up!
This has happened to me over and over and over again. Surrender first, receive second. True love means laying down your life with no expectation of return. Fortunately, God is the one person with whom we can be completely sure of receiving so much more than we give.
If you surrender yourself completely, you will receive complete fulfillment.
Despite numerous positive results, resisting surrender has been a huge part of my life. Every time a tough situation comes up I should surrender it and leave it to God, but unfortunately it always takes me a while to convince myself. I still just wanna be the driver. But every single decision I surrender to God works out in the long run.
Now I have a question for you: What is one thing you need to surrender to God that you are afraid to give to him? Leave a comment below. Oh, and I'm including the prayer of surrender for you too. May you see God's wonders working in your life more and more!
Want to read more of my writing on discernment? Check out:
Aaand, here it is....
A Prayer of Surrender
God, my Father, I thank you for all that You are, and all that you do for me through your son Jesus Christ. I praise you for my life, for your mercy and for your Eucharist. In Jesus' name, Father, I place myself entirely in your Heart.
I surrender to you my whole self, my heart, my mind, my memory, my imagination, my will, my emotions, my passions, my body, my sexuality, my desire for human approval, my weaknesses, my desires, my sins.
I surrender every person in my life to you. I surrender every situation in my life to you. I surrender every relationship I am in to you. I surrender every concern I have to you. I surrender every fear I have to you. I surrender every doubt I have to you. I surrender all confusion I have to you. I surrender all sadness I am experiencing in my heart to you. I surrender all the woundedness I have to you. I surrender all anxiety and worry I have to you. I surrender all that deceives me in my heart to you. I surrender my whole self to you. I trust you to care for me and others in a perfectly loving way.
As I have emptied myself, and surrendered everything to you, I ask you now, Father, to fill me with your Holy Spirit and all the gifts and fruits of your Spirit.
Holy Spirit you are the source of love, hope, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, tenderness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. Purify my desires.
Help me to open my heart to you. Help me to become perfectly receptive as a pure child. Help me to believe in your love for me. Help me to hope in your love. Help me to receive from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus all grace and virtues necessary for me to become the person you created me to be. I ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Your son, God Almighty Father.
O Most Holy Immaculate Virgin Mary, I entrust this prayer to your heart, and ask you to press it to your wounded heart and intercede for me to your son Jesus. Please help me to be as you are, a perfect disciple, an obedient servant, a true child of God. Amen.