Here we are halfway through the middle of July already, and I never made a single resolution for 2015.
Truthfully, I’m not much for making resolutions at the start of a new year. Make ’em and break ’em is usually my mode of operation, and it gets to be a bit depressing. So why bother?
But this year is different. This year, the Lord is tugging at my heart, ever so gently, to step out of my comfort zone and to move forward. Closer, just a little bit, to holiness and to Him.
So, in lieu of resolutions, this year there will be small steps forward, toward virtue.
First on the list: the virtue of abandonment.
Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, who was both the blood sister of St. Therese as well as her sister in the Carmel, wrote that their beautiful mother, who is now Blessed Zelie Martin, lived by the absolute, unwavering conviction that
“God governs all things, that He has a particular love for us, and that whatever He does is well done.”
The virtue of abandonment. This is the virtue that Sister Genevieve remarked was Blessed Zelie’s defining characteristic. This virtue of radical trust, of deep and desperate faithfulness, of clinging to the unshakable truth that God is good and that everything He wills or allows in my life – the beautiful and joyful along with the painful and the stretching beyond what I think I can bear – will work together for my salvation.
It’s a virtue that I’ve never possessed, and what’s worse, one that I’ve never even really sought after. Just typing the word abandonment sends a little shudder through this strong-willed, plan-it-out, perfectionist-prone girl.
What? Let go of my plans? Relinquish my dreams and ideals for the future? Lay aside my need to control every aspect of my life?
And what about suffering? When I make plans for my life, I usually make it a rule to forego most major varieties of pain, woe, and hardship. But if I hand over control to God, if I open my heart to receive whatever He wants to give me, there will probably be a good amount of suffering. Just look at the lives of the Saints.
All of that might be ok for Zelie – she was so holy and her daughter was St. Therese!– but it sounds way too demanding for a “normal” person like me, just trying to live out marriage and family life here in the trenches.
Wait a minute. As much as I’d like to give myself a Get Out of Jail Free card on this one, I don’t think that would go over well if I make it to Heaven. “Lord, I love You and I know that You’re God, but… I just didn’t trust You enough to give you control. Sorry, but I really didn’t ever master that annoying virtue of abandonment.”
But the truth of the matter is, if anyone had reason to doubt the goodness of God’s will and to give herself a “pass” on practicing abandonment, it was Zelie. She bore nine children, three of whom died in infancy, and another at the age of five. She was continuously full of anxiety over the health of her five remaining children, who were often sick when they were young.
In her prime, as she was raising her daughters and running her business and building her domestic church, she developed breast cancer. The progression of her illness was extremely painful and debilitating, and although she prayed for a miracle of healing for the sake of her family, she knew death was likely imminent.
Yet through all of this suffering, she faithfully and patiently accepted God’s will for her life, and even sang His praises. Why? Because she knew beyond any doubt that God loved her.
He loved her. As a father loves his children, so our God cares for us, deeply and intimately.
Zelie wrote this in a letter to her brother:
“When I think of what the good God, in whom I placed all my confidence… has done for me and my husband, I cannot doubt but that His divine Providence watches over His children in a particular way.”
Sister Genevieve remarked that “it was this assurance of invincible, even audacious confidence towards our Father in Heaven, that sustained her in her many trials.”
Blessed Zelie truly was extraordinary in this heroic confidence and holy abandonment with which she daily lived out her vocation (and consider how this heroism must have inspired holiness in her daughter Therese, who became the “greatest saint of modern times”).
What if the same loving God to whom Zelie abandoned herself wants to make this heroic confidence a reality in my life as well – if only I would cast aside my desire to hold the reigns, and open myself up to Him?
What if I were to place all of my plans – from the loftiest to the smallest, from how I want to change the world, to what I want to do with my “free” time while the kids nap today – into the hands of my loving Father, and let them go?
What if I were to believe that He knows every fiber of my being, He knows the inner workings of my heart, He understands my longings even more than I do myself – and He is asking me to live by the conviction that His love is greater than my fears?
What if I were to repeat, with every beat of my heart, “Whatever He does is well done,” until it became a truth ingrained in my soul, deep and unshakable, as God has always wanted it to be?
Whatever He does is well done.
This post first appeared on Blessed is She on 7.21.15.