Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Monday, February 24, 2014

7 Posts, 7 Days: Writing to God

Welcome to any 7 Posts, 7 Days readers.  I look forward to reading your posts this week.
Today’s post is part of my newly hatched Monday Musings.

Recently, a friend presented the challenge of writing a poem to God.  I filed this in the back of my head, since I didn’t have any great lightning strikes of inspiration from the start.  But that changed the other day. 

I was reading a poem by St. Teresa of Avila, “In the Hands of God.”  If you follow this link, at Catholic Fire, you’ll find the poem in its entirety.  Here’s one part:

In Your hand
I place my heart,
Body, life and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse – Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to you,
What do You want of me?

Throughout this writing, St. Teresa presents various contrasting scenarios that could happen in life. She repeats that, whatever happens to her, she will it accept unreservedly, “What do you want of me?”  She writes of abandoning her will to God, whether that means life or death, sickness or health, war or swelling peace, delight or distress . . .what do You want of me?

As I was reading the poem, I found myself agreeing with her sentiments.  Specifically, I was agreeing with the generalities: hunger/famine, darkness/sunlight . . . what do You want of me?  I reflected how, in the abstract, I can pray the same as Teresa.  “Yes, God, lead me where You want me to go.” 

Then I began to consider specifics, the things that apply to my life in a concrete way.  Will I have to wait for a dramatic event in order to surrender myself to God?  No! Heaven is full of saints (lowercase ‘s’) who lived ordinary lives, never having to practice heroic virtue in the face of famine or war or persecution.  Most of us are called to ask What do You want of me? under more ordinary circumstances than the extremes of famine or war.  Specific to me: sleepless nights due to a toddler who doesn’t seem to need sleep, frustration in meal planning for multiple people with differing food sensitivities, frustration from last-minute changes to my carefully crafted schedule of activities outside the home.  If I were to put any of these into a poem in which I promise to surrender myself to whatever God wants, would I be able to surrender as St. Teresa does?  [And why does it seem easier to promise to die for God, if a gun were put to my head, than it is to accept with grace a night of fitful sleep?  I suppose it is because that gun is not at my head and the poor sleep is a constant. That doesn't say much about my willingness to live a life for others and not self.]

A poem of my own began to form, as I considered the areas in life where I don’t always see the hand of God.  I do not accept my poor sleep with grace.  I stress out about food.  I have a fit if my carefully designed schedule needs adjusting.  If I were to pray this poem of Teresa’s with my own, concrete, ordinary, admittedly-first-world-problems, I would not be doing it honestly.  I have not surrendered myself in those myriad of ordinary ways that add up to a lifetime of selfishness or selflessness.

What is it for you? Difficult neighbors, unpleasant family members, obnoxious co-workers, chronic health issues, underemployment, and on and on?  I won’t be sharing my poem on the blog, as my areas of surrender or non-surrender include things more personal than the examples I’ve used this morning.  However, I pass along my friend’s challenge to you.  Write a poem to God, but with the twist of looking at your life through St. Teresa’s poem, “In the Hands of God.”

Yours I am, for You I was born:
What do You want of me?

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