As I write this, I’m sitting in a French bakery in Lakeview East, eating a croissant and drinking a latte and wishing I were in a real Parisian bakery instead of this one in Chicago. I’m not well-dressed for the present low temperatures, a million chores demand my attention at home, and currently, my car is waiting for me in a tow lot on the north side.
For the sake of context, I feel compelled to add this is the second time my car’s been towed this month.
I like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten better at handling and managing stress. I didn’t freak out this morning when I realized my car had been towed (although I wanted to), and I managed to keep my wits about me as I was forced to carry on with my day. Well, I thought to myself, what’s done is done. “No use crying over spilt milk,” as they say.
Nevertheless, this bitter development in my weekend seemed to be the cherry-on-top of a stressful week. This past month shaped up to be one of those moments in life that brings to the forefront many questions—where am I going? How am I getting there? Who am I bringing along for the ride? Toss some parking tickets and a car tow (or two) into the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a full-scale meltdown.
But see, us Catholics—we’re lucky. Moments like these that could so easily knock down persons with lesser faith are actually big opportunities for us. They’re a chance, given by God, to really choose to believe in Him. That moment I pulled up to where I’d left my car and realized it wasn’t there anymore? An opportunity for surrender. I try so hard to remind myself of that.
Mother Teresa had this mastered. She once said:
“Every day we have to say yes. To be where He wants you to be. Total surrender. If He puts you in the street—if everything is taken from you and suddenly you find yourself in the street—to accept to be put in the street at that moment… To accept whatever He gives and to give whatever He takes with a big smile. This is the surrender to God. To accept to be cut to pieces, and yet every piece to belong only to Him. This is the surrender. To accept the people that come, the work that you happen to do. Today maybe you have a good meal and tomorrow maybe you have nothing. There is no water in the pump? Alright. To accept, and to give whatever He takes. He takes your good name, He takes your health, yes. That’s the surrender. And you are free then.”
I was discussing with a close friend earlier this week how very emotional people (specifically, people like the two of us) can go about keeping their cool in relationships. I realized as we were talking that moments I’ve been especially emotional (within the context of romantic or friendship relationships) have often been a result of a loss of control. In the past, I’ve responded to a loss of control by grasping. I’ve reacted emotionally when I’ve lost a grip on the situation and recognized the outcome as being out of my hands. But this is a God-complex, and it’s a sinful attitude to take—especially toward the people we love.
Just as in the case of relationships, we must keep this mentality in the case of life across the board. I’m simply not in control. It’s what Mother Teresa says in the quote above: “today maybe you have a good meal and tomorrow you have nothing.” I live at the whim of the Lord. When we’re able to truly recognize this Truth, receive it in our hearts, and apply it to our lives, it’s liberating—because in knowing we’re not in control, we surrender our lives to God. And if we surrender our lives to God, we’re forced to rely solely on Him. Here is where we find peace—in this place where we know that our Lord keeps His promises.
Consider this comment by St. Teresa of Avila:
“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing scare you. All is fleeting, God alone is unchanging. Patience everything obtains. They want nothing who possess God; He alone is enough.”
I’ve tried very hard to make a practice of giving everything back to God. I’ve tried to practice, in both good and bad, offering every moment in life up to Him as an opportunity to do His will. Missed the bus on your way to work? It’s Yours, Lord. Burnt your dinner? It’s Yours, Lord. Get your car towed twice in one month? Still, yes. It’s Yours, Lord. Do everything in life for Him, and be filled with the peace that comes with surrendering your life.
In the book Love & Salt, one of the writers comments that the unfortunate part of being Christian is that we don’t have the luxury of giving up, because there is always hope in the resurrection. I believe she’s exactly right. Doesn’t it feel some days as though it’d be easier to just give up? To abandon our goals and our convictions for the sake of some instant, momentary satisfaction? Of course. But we can’t. Because through the resurrection, we know there are better days to come.