Since Divine Mercy Sunday last week, I’ve been buzzing with a desire to receive more mercy, be more forgiving (of myself and others), and live true freedom — because forgiveness and freedom are inseparable.
I recently shared the story of Marlena, who found the freedom to grow in virtue from letting go of her expectations and resentments. Since she started doing that, she said, “I am so happy.”
But what if we’re not there yet — what if we still struggle with a drive to achieve exactly what we have pictured in our minds, without always asking God what he wants? Or maybe we do drive-by prayers asking for guidance, but we don’t stick around long enough to hear the real answer in our hearts, for fear it may not be what we want?
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, suggests an answer in his book 33 Days to Merciful Love. He lays out the place that ambition and surrender play in our spiritual growth. On page 56 he writes, “…our efforts in the spiritual life are absolutely necessary but also absolutely useless. What? I mean that in the sense that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta meant when she’d often say, ‘God does not call us to be successful but to be faithful.’ In other words, applied to our spiritual lives, the Lord doesn’t demand that we attain all the virtues (success) but that we simply keep trying (faithfulness)….the success part isn’t what’s most important.”
But why? Because our problem is not “failure,” but failing to measure success by God’s standards, not our own. Real success is doing our best to maintain a loving dependence on God, who (hello!) made the universe and all its standards. Our own experience shows us that God works in ways we often can’t see to bring a result better than we could ever imagine.
In moments when we can give up the fear, shame, and anger of another “failure,” that’s where the freedom of humility lives. God hasn’t gone anywhere — we can still keep our eyes on him, right now, trusting him who has brought us so much good and loving him who is love itself.