I was reflecting tonight on a conversation I had with someone not too long ago. It was with a person I had just met in the context of a larger group gathering, so the thought was just sort of left hanging as the conversation moved on to other topics. But it's stayed with me to ponder in my heart a bit, so here you go:
This person, who had not been raised with religion, shared that they had come to know God in more recent years and that one night, in prayer, they had a sense of hearing the voice of God. God told them, "I want you to give me your life. Will you follow me?" This person said that they would. God said, "I want you to give me 100%. Will you do it?" The person said that they told God that they'd give him 90%, and keep the other 10% to themselves. And then this person said that they wondered if God accepted their offering, since it wasn't complete.
The first thought I have is this: I don't know. No one knows. Only God alone knows, and in fact God knows each of us, our hearts, and our intentions even better than we can know them ourselves. When I speculate on God's response, though, I don't imagine God rejecting this person's offering, but I do imagine Him waiting for the other 10%. Standing at the door. Knocking. Not in a forceful or impatient way, but in a loving way. Hoping that we will come and open the door, that He may come in and eat with us, and we with Him (Revelation 3:20).
I think that a lot of us have a fear of what our lives will look like if we give them completely to God. I had a friend that said she had a long-standing (but admittedly irrational) fear that if she gave her life fully to God, she would end up in some desolate place alone scrubbing toilets.
I think a lot of us fear being alone, or not being happy, and suffering intensely if we give everything to God. Maybe we've been hurt in life (who hasn't?), and we associate some of that hurt with God, or who we think God to be. Why didn't God answer that prayer in the way that I thought He should? Why didn't God grant my will? And how on Earth could such tragedy and injustice as we've experienced in this life be His will? Certainly, all of the pain and anguish of life cannot be God's will granted on Earth as it is in Heaven, and if it is, then perhaps we want no part of His will, no part of this Heaven. Giving it all to God, even if we believe Him to be ultimately good and loving, seems a scary proposition in the face of so much sadness in the world and in our lives.
But ultimately, giving our lives to God is the only way to find true happiness. Not the superficial and transitory happiness that can be found in material things or temporary fads, but the deep and abiding happiness that can come only from accepting that you are not the only one in control of your life, and a peace that the One who is has ultimate plans for your good (cf Jeremiah 29:11). To the extent that we hold back, we suffer even more deeply. And to the extent that we give ourselves to the author of our lives, we become more true to ourselves and to Truth itself. For in giving of ourselves, we receive. In dying to ourselves, we are born to eternal life.
My friend with the fear of having to scrub toilets has since given her life to God, and continues to do so daily. She has found that her life does, in fact, involve some scrubbing of toilets, but she prefers to complete this task with God rather than without Him.
All of us who have given our lives to God and then been disappointed by the sufferings of life may ask if things would have been different if we hadn't given everything to Him.
"You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me." (Jeremiah 20:7)But ultimately, we realize that we will suffer in our lives, with God or without Him. And in the end, it is better to suffer with Him. Because even though God isn't about sparing us from suffering as most of us would probably prefer, He is in the business of bringing great good from the most unimaginable tragedies. He doesn't will evil, death, or destruction -- never. But because He has given humanity free will, He permits evil and brings from it grace, hope, and redemption. This is the story of the Cross, the bloodiest love story ever told. This is the Paschal Mystery of our lives -- to move from the Good Friday of suffering and even death, to enter into the depths of hopelessness in Holy Saturday, and to be shocked by unthinkable hope of Easter Sunday -- good triumphs over evil, death has no sting, life has had the final victory over the grave. It's an ending we never could have predicted -- can we accept it?
In this light, it seems that the 10% we keep from God is not the 10% that has more fun or more control or more joy or more cool stuff. It's the 10% that stays stuck in Holy Saturday -- the descent into hell, the experience of profound separation from the only one who knows and understands us fully.
We've just begun another Easter Sunday. Let's consider where we need to let go, to give Him more, and to receive more of Himself and thus of our true selves.
Peace and all good,