Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with confreres who live near San Jose, California. When I told a businessman friend that I would be spending several weeks in Silicon Valley, he got very excited and insisted that I visit Google: “Those tech companies are changing the world! Be proactive and meet people there!”
Having learned the importance of networking during my New York days, I took his advice and started thinking of ways to get in touch with someone at Google. However, as I worked on solving the problem, a quiet thought from the Holy Spirit snuck into the midst of my calculations and plans: “You know what, why don’t you just let me handle this one?”
My instant reaction was a “clinging” one: “What! If I am going to make this happen, I need to be proactive. I can’t just assume that it will happen on its own.” But the thought kept coming back: “Just let go and trust in me.”
So that’s what I did. I let go and I left it in God’s hands.
The next day, while at lunch with my community, one of my confreres mentioned casually, “Hey, a new friend of mine at Google just invited me for a tour. Want to join me?”
Letting Go of Amateur Personal Plans
In my own life, I have noticed whenever I start getting tense and worried, without fail, it is because I am clinging onto something.
Exams are a perfect example. Here in Rome, the university exam system is different from that in the States. Instead of packing all of the exams into a one or two-week period, they are spread out over the course of a month, thus allowing the students several days to prepare for each one. This system has its advantages and disadvantages: although it allows us more time to study, it lengthens the agony!
Since my arrival here, I have absolutely dreaded the exam months of February and June, the worst being the June of 2011 when I was finishing my master’s degree in philosophy. I don’t think that I had ever been so stressed as I pored over books and waited in agony for the final hour-long oral exam.
Thankfully, since then, I have learned the importance of letting go. I gradually realized that the stress that accumulated during exams was entirely self-imposed and unnecessary: it resulted from an inordinate attachment to my grades. I had created in my mind a complicated personal plan that included good grades as a sine qua non. In my mind, this personal plan, upon which all of my future depended, would come crashing down if I were to finish exams with mediocre grades.
Although exams are still far from being my favorite time of the year, it has become clear to me that I can do them with greater peace. I have learned to not cling onto the idea of getting good grades and to let go of my personal plans. Letting go has made me leave everything to God, trusting that even if I do get bad grades, he has a plan that is much better than my own.
Letting the Expert Take Over
Grasping our own plans and projects is like trying to build a house on our own with neither experience nor expertise. If we were to go through life insisting that we know best and neglecting to let God arrange things, we would be like a foolish do-it-yourselfer who insists on designing his own home, even though an architect like Frank Lloyd Wright has offered to assist him free of charge.
God has something that we lack: infinite knowledge. From all of eternity, he has known each of us thoroughly; he has known everything that can happen to us and everything that will happen.
My very self you knew; My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret…Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. – Psalm 139:15-16
Living in a Grasping World
We live in a world that encourages us to grasp and cling. Our celebrity-infatuated, materialistic society says that we are only worthy of notice if we meet its standards: unless we are CEO-successful or model-good-looking, we don’t make the cut. We weary ourselves by clinging and grasping to these unrealistic expectations.
Life is so much more beautiful and peaceful when we free ourselves from the ruthless and superficial standards of the world and allow ourselves to be enveloped by the unconditional love of God our Father. There is nothing more frustrating than clinging to things that are beyond our control; there is nothing more liberating than leaving everything to God.
Letting Go as Christ Did
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-7
Our Lord did not allow himself to be swayed in the least by worldly messianic expectations: from the temptations in the desert to his arrival in Jerusalem, he rejected all opportunities to grasp for power and prestige. He allowed himself to be humbled and humiliated to the extreme, as Isaiah prophesied:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. – Isaiah 53:3
Yet Christ’s humiliation and complete detachment from self were the very conditions for His glorification:
Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. – Isaiah 52:13
Christ, by not limiting himself to human standards, opened himself to God’s Plan, which infinitely exceeded all expectations in the Resurrection. In the same way, if we let go of our human plans and projects, and allow God free rein, what he does with our lives will far surpass our wildest dreams.