I had my first meeting with a spiritual director this past week. Not surprisingly, I spent a big chunk of the time rambling about where I am spiritually, some of the challenges I face, my difficulties with spiritual dryness. Yada. Yada. Yada.
In short, I put my faith life and my innermost struggles with it on the dissection table, took a deep breath, and waited to hear my diagnosis.
The good news: My prognosis looks positive, but there’s definitely some healing to be done.
During our conversation, my spiritual director said a lot of helpful things (and didn’t suggest even once that I was a hopeless cause!), and it was unbelievably comforting to have someone to confide in outside my personal circle of friends and family, someone who could look at me more objectively and tell me what I need to hear even if it’s not necessarily what I want or simply expect to hear.
Like: “Write down every single fear you have right now. Ask yourself, ‘What am I really afraid of?’ The answer to this question will show you the areas of your life where you’re the most insecure, where you’re not letting Him in.”
Not letting Him in.
I’ve been asking myself what it means to let God in ever since my spiritual director first said the phrase. Thankfully, sitting down to compose my (ridiculously long) list of fears helped give me some insight.
I don’t want to get too personal here or bore you with all of my insecurities. But as an overview, some of the fears were downright goofy. Others were more legitimate – common human anxieties that I suspect resonate in a lot of us.
What really struck me as I took a look at all of my misgivings is that my spiritual director was absolutely right: What each of my fears had in common was that I was either 1) doubting that God could help me overcome them and/or 2) I was trying to convince myself I could take care of whatever the concern was on my own.
I really was shutting God out. I don’t mean to imply that I wasn’t praying about these fears. In fact, there’s one worry in particular that dominates my prayer life.
But it’s one thing to pray and quite another to trust.
While I haven’t stopped praying, this exercise showed me there are unquestionably areas in my life where I’ve stopped trusting. And, really, what kind of relationship do I expect to have with God if I can’t even trust him?
Charles R. Swindoll, author of Intimacy with the Almighty says it much better when he writes:
“Anyone whose determined purpose is to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him cannot retain the rights to his own position or place…or be anxiously preoccupied with working out the details of his own life. There must be complete and unqualified reliance on the Living Lord. In other words, one must develop the discipline of surrender.”
I’m stubborn, prideful, and competitive, so you can imagine how I feel about the word surrender. I can remember when I was an avid long distance runner and I’d be participating in a road race when I’d hear another runner’s rhythmic steps approaching me from behind and how I’d push my legs faster and harder, even if they felt like jelly or blocks of concrete. I was not going to surrender easily. Maybe this tenacity pays off during a 10K, but when it comes to my prayer life, it only serves to push God back to the sidelines of my life.
Truth is, I often pray “thy will be done,” but then I cave in to my own will and do what I want or what I think I want.
Meanwhile, the fears and insecurities fester.
If I want to allow God to gain entrance into my life and ease some of my worries, then I’ve got to learn to practice the discipline of surrender.
My preschooler frequently hands me “treasures” she discovers. They’re usually something from nature – rocks, leaves, shiny pieces of mica.
Once I surreptitiously tossed a pinecone she’d given me into a parking lot. When we returned home, she asked me where it was. I told her I’d lost it, and her face drooped with disappointment. I wasn’t sure who was going to start crying first – my daughter or I – because at that moment I realized she wasn’t just handing me natural artifacts. She was giving me her trust.
I admit: Sometimes I’m not in the mood to lug around strands of pinestraw and a handful of pebbles in my purse along with all the other mandatory mom accoutrements (wipes, diapers, sippy cups, tissues, Bandaids). But since the lost pinecone episode, I’ve tried to always safeguard the treasures she entrusts to me.
Like the pebbles my daughter puts in my hands, it’s time I do more than just pray. If I really want to let God in, I’d better be ready to surrender all of my fears and insecurities over to him and to trust that he can and will take care of whatever I release to his care much better than I ever possibly could.
I’m still working out the details of how to do just that. “Surrender to God’s will,” and “put your trust in him” are two of the many universal truths of Christianity that are liberally tossed around, and they sound simple enough. But what does it really mean to trust in the Lord with all of my heart, and how do I apply these directives to my spiritual life? I’m eager to let God in, but I’m going to have to figure how to best extend the invitation.
Spiritual direction is just that – direction. I sense I’ve been prodded along the right route, but it’s up to me keep plodding along and to search for the answers.
This begs me to ask: How do you define “letting God in”? And what about the discipline of surrender? What have you found has been helpful in developing this discipline? I need all the help I can get!
*If you’re interested in finding your own spiritual director, Jen at Conversion Diary has a great post on the subject.