You may have heard of the monkey trap. In South America, Africa, and Asia, natives have discovered that when they place a gourd or interesting object inside a hollowed out space and drill a hole just large enough for a hand to pass through, they can catch a monkey. When the monkey reaches inside the hole and secures the item of interest, it grasps the object tightly and stubbornly refuses to let go, effectively trapping itself.
Let Go and Let God
Don’t we often resemble the monkey when we refuse to let go of control over a situation or event and simply trust God to take care of it? We hold on desperately to our own will, trying to manipulate circumstances to force them to happen the way we want them to, when God has a different idea. The more we hang on, the more frustrated we become when things don’t go according to our plan. In addition, we often rush in and try to manage the situation ourselves without stopping to reflect and pray about it.
Choosing the “Better Part”
“The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'” (Luke 10:41-42) How often are we like Martha, worried and concerned over the details of our lives, clinging to them in desperation like the monkey in the trap, when we should become more like Mary, calmly sitting at the feet of Jesus and entrusting our cares and worries to him? The more we surrender our problems, fears, and confusion to Jesus, the easier it becomes to step aside and allow him to move and work in every situation and circumstance. The truth is, God knows the plan for our lives much better than we do and he wants what is best for us. Therefore, if we surrender control to him, he can allay every concern and correct any problem we might have. His way is best, even when we do not understand what he is doing at the moment.
Be Still and Know
Mary was sufficiently detached from the cares and worries of her life that she could do this – she could step aside and trust Jesus. She was not clinging to the need to control but instead sat at his feet and listened to him. She knew that remaining close to Jesus was of more value than engaging in frantic activity. Martha was busy serving, which is not a bad thing in itself; but she forgot the “better part,” patience and attentiveness to Christ. “Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps 46:11) There is a temptation as Christians to get caught up in activity and our own pursuits, and as a result we neglect the interior aspect of our faith. God is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives, even in the smallest details. When we are distracted and consumed with external diversions, however, we often rush in when there are problems and try to manipulate and control the outcome to excess. If we take the problem to the feet of Jesus first and patiently hear what he is trying to tell us, the solution will present itself in time.
My Grandfather’s Story
When my grandfather was alive and away from the church, my mother worried and fretted for years about his soul, praying excessively for him to have a conversion and return to the sacraments. One day she finally gave up trying to control the situation and made the decision to surrender my grandfather and his salvation to God. Soon after, while in the hospital, he went to confession, received absolution, and began going to Mass with my grandmother. By releasing the problem into God’s hands and relying on him to take care of it, she enabled God to work on my grandfather’s heart and change it.
At the Feet of Jesus
Jesus admonished his disciples who “could not keep watch with [him] for one hour,” (Mt 26:40) as he sweat blood at the knowledge of his impending Passion and Crucifixion. Remembering his words, I sometimes imagine myself sitting at his feet in the Garden of Gethsemane. There I can tell him all of my problems, entrusting them to him who can make all things new. If I listen closely, I often receive a word or gentle realization which helps to answer the question or problem I happen to be struggling with. It does not always happen immediately, but with patience and persistence in prayer we can trust him to answer us in time. If we release our cares into his hands, we can trust that he will heal, restore and repair whatever troubles we have more perfectly than we ever could.
The Perfect Trust of Mary, Our Mother
Another woman who remained at Jesus’ feet and trusted God completely, even in the face of her Son’s death, was Mary, his Mother. How painful it must have been and how broken her heart must have felt as she stood beneath the Cross and watched her son die. Once again, a Mary – this time Our Blessed Mother – had chosen the “better part.” Can we, his followers, imitate Mary, the sister of Martha and Our Blessed Mother, and take the time away from our busy lives to sit at his feet and be attentive to what he wants to tell us? What are some ways we can let go of excessive control over our lives and trust in him more?
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