“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned ...
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” This quote by Joseph Campbell was given to me in a beautiful calligraphy done by a friend many years ago. While I know nothing about Joseph Campbell, and this friend and I have long since drifted apart, this quote still adorns my walls, reminding me of God’s gentle invitation to follow Him instead of my plan.
In the Christian faith, this Campbell quote translates nicely into “Your will be done “(Matthew 6:10b). Such simple words which we all too often say without thinking when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. These words are cried out and lived out by Jesus in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as he ponders the fate that awaits him. He prays “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
We are always being invited to embrace this total sense of laying down our will – what we want, what we planned, what we thought would happen - and choose instead God’s will. It’s not a popular thought – one hard fought against by most of society – Christians included. Why? Because we think we know what is best for ourselves and everyone else. It’s truly pride at its best - but often disguised in the socially acceptable principals of ambition, hard work, talent, drive, leadership, and activity – all of which are indeed wonderful gifts from God to be celebrated.
Jesus had all these gifts, and more. He had a plan, wonderful leadership abilities and lots of energy, drive, and hard work. His plan came from the Father and He was faithful to it. But how shocking it must have been to him when he realized that how he thought the plan would end – with everyone converted and following God – couldn’t be further from his present reality – hiding out with a ragtag band of misfits who would betray and abandon him as the forces of society sought to silence him. In that moment in the garden, Jesus laid down his plan in favor of the Father’s unknown one.
At that moment I wonder if Jesus could see the end of the story. I wonder if as with me, God only revealed the next step of His plan – his upcoming suffering and not his Resurrection. That is pretty much always the case with me. I am usually just given the next thing that I am to do – often it makes no sense and is not what I planned at all. That’s when I have the same choice as Jesus – Do I continue with my plan or follow the Father’s? To be honest, I have done both. Too often I am not able to lay down my plan and instead insist on struggling through it. And struggle I do. Sometimes I actually complete my plan, but often by then I realize it was the lesser choice.
There are graced times when I am able to trust God enough to lay down my will and what makes logical sense to me, in favor of God’s will and a future that I cannot envision as good. Yet invariably when I do, something new transpires and opens before me, something bigger and better than I could have imagined. The journey to this reality is not always easy – but not nearly as horrendous as Jesus’ journey to the cross. So often we focus on Jesus’ suffering. And indeed, He did and still does. But I wonder if we aren't called to focus just as much on Jesus’ desire to follow God’s will and not his own, embracing all that happens as something which God will work for good. And indeed, He does.
What thoughts you would like to share about this reflection? Please feel free to comment so others can be inspired by God in our midst.