What would it look like if we submitted our entire will to God? What kind of an impact would we have on the world? How fulfilling and peaceful would life become?
While these are difficult questions to answer, they are worth considering. The Saints are examples of those who embraced God’s will for their lives. But we tell ourselves that saints are different – that they have a predisposition toward holiness that we don’t have. So we become content with our mediocre, lukewarm lives without truly diving into the life that God is offering us. We skate through life and make decisions our way to avoid God pushing us out of our comfort zone.
As the author and perfecter of life, God’s plans are infinitely better than anything we can come up with ourselves. So why are we so resistant to God’s presence in our lives? Why do we resist His gentle call to go deeper, climb higher, and know Him better in this life and to transform our lives? As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” but so often we repel the urge to fulfill the deepest part of our souls.
God is calling us to a deeper life than what is physically right in front of us. He wants us to experience the fullness of what He designed for us, but we have to be open to His direction. We have to be willing to “put out into the deep.”
Our Lady of the Rockies
My wife and I recently took a trip through Montana and in passing through Butte we were privileged to view Our Lady of the Rockies from the interstate. Curious to learn more about it, my wife Googled the monument as we drove and we spent the next hour marveling at how the citizens of Butte managed to create the third largest statue in the United States by simply being open to God’s movement in their lives.
In 1979 Butte resident Bill O’Bob’s wife was dying of cancer. He promised the Virgin Mary that he would build a 5-foot statue of Mary in his backyard if his wife was healed. When she made a full recovery, his friends and coworkers pitched in to help fulfill his promise- a simple promise that soon developed into a 90 foot statue that would overlook the city. Donations and volunteer offers poured in and soon a plot of land, concrete, engineering work, road construction, and transportation of the statue all fell into place. In 1985 the statue was airlifted to its current site on the Continental Divide in Butte, Montana.
Bill O’Bob allowed God to move in his life and as a result it is impossible to drive through Butte without seeing the spectacular image of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop the East Ridge. Could this have happened if he had closed off his life to the promptings of the Holy Spirit – if he chose to continue on with life after his wife’s recovery instead of allowing God to work through such a difficult experience?
Submit to God’s Will
After the hardship of his wife’s battle with cancer and then all the effort it took to complete the project, imagine the joy and fulfillment the entire community felt from working together to erect the breathtaking image of Our Lady. Surely O’Bob did not foresee the implications of following through on his seemingly innocent promise to God. But by submitting his will to God O’Bob allowed Him to make something more awe-inspiring than he could have ever imagined.
I tend to think that God has a powerful plan for each of us that involve Him completely overhauling our current way of life and replacing it with something deeper, more fulfilling, more joyful, more effectual than we could ever imagine. In addition, He uses us as tools in this life to spread the message of the Gospel. What is it that holds us back from allowing Him to take over and guide us into the depths of what life has to offer?
There is perhaps no better example of how to abandon one’s will to God than our first pope, St. Peter. A timid fisherman-turned-apostle, Peter was not much of a leader. Peter failed the test of trust when attempting to walk on water. He denied Jesus’ efforts to wash his feet. He vehemently opposed the idea of Jesus dying on the cross (for which Jesus chastised him, calling him “Satan“). Then he fell asleep while Jesus was praying at Gethsemane and he famously denied Jesus three times. He was most certainly “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
But after witnessing the resurrected Christ and allowing Him to infiltrate Peter’s life to the very core, Peter changed dramatically. He went from being cowardly and afraid to being bold and courageous. In Acts chapter 2 he spoke defiantly about the truth of Christ risen from the dead and exhorted anyone listening to seek forgiveness and be baptized. And in Acts 3 he cured a cripple and again spoke of Jesus and the need to turn from evil ways. Then in Acts 4, following his release from prison he spoke passionately about the power of the resurrected Jesus to the Sanhedrin, stunning them with his boldness and clarity.
By allowing himself to be moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter opened his life up to God. As a result he became the first pope of the universal church and his legacy carries on forever. Would any of this have been possible if he had not allowed God to alter his life’s direction and take him deeper than he could go himself? Peter gives witness to the fact that by allowing God to use us as His tools, our lives have a greater impact than we could ever have on our own.
Duc In Altum (Put Out Into the Deep)
When Jesus first entered Peter’s life, He prompted Peter to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Peter reluctantly agreed and as a result his fishing nets tore because of the amount of fish he caught. Peter was completely unprepared for the invasion of Jesus’ grace in his life and the power that it held. Peter “left everything and followed Him” right then and there, astonished by the fact that Jesus had asserted His will into Peter’s life.
“Duc in altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” – Pope St. John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte
Pope St. John Paul II spoke on this subject of “putting out into the deep” several times. He insisted that God is calling each of us to a deeper life – one full of meaning, purpose and joy. At the 2005 World Day of Prayer for Vocations he said, “. . . one needs to open one’s heart to the abundance of grace and to allow the word of the Redeemer to act with all its power: ‘Duc in altum!’ Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace.” God is asking us spread the Gospel and He knows that in so doing our lives will become more joyful and meaningful.
Abandon Yourself to God’s Will
It would have been so easy for Bill O’Bob and St. Peter to ignore the draw to a deeper, more enriched life. It is much easier and safer to simply blend in, skate by, and not allow God to infiltrate our souls and move us to unknown depths.
Whether it is because of fear, pride, selfishness, laziness, vanity, control, power or a myriad of other sinful inclinations, we all have the tendency to ignore the deep desire to abandon our lives completely to God’s will and allow Him to direct our actions. Instead we fill our time escaping reality. Sports, celebrities, Facebook, TV shows, or other mundane physical hobbies cloud our vision of what life is all about. Similar to the bread and circuses of the first and second century Roman Empire, we are fed and entertained so as not to realize what is really happening beneath the surface. We fail to see that our lives are not really being properly fulfilled.
Memento Mori (Remember Death)
So what is it that enabled Bill O’Bob to open his life to God’s will? What empowered Peter to stand up to injustice and proclaim the Gospel of Christ with boldness and tenacity? They were able to tap into the desire that we all have to lead a deeper, more purposeful life.
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in what is right in front of us – the immediately visible and the material. But it would do us well to remember always the phrase the priest repeats on Ash Wednesday: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
In order to live the deep, rich life that God has for us, we must be able and willing to remember death. One day we will come to the end of our lives. Will we be able to look back on how we used God’s graces and allowed Him to infiltrate our entire being?
A Deeper, Richer Life
We have our plans and ideas of what big things looks like, but His plans are better. On the surface it may seem easy and convenient to live a life guided by our own prerogatives, but God is calling us to “put out into the deep,” to remember what we were made for, and to take part in God’s Theo-drama allowing Him to use us as a tool. He promises that this will not only further the kingdom of God, but it will lead us into a deeper, richer, more joyful experience of life.
Let us pray for the capacity to realize the impact and fulfillment we can have if we submit our wills to the living God.
“Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. The kingdom of heaven is for those who are determined to enter it . . . Do not be afraid to be holy! Have the courage and humility to present yourselves to the world determined to be holy, since full, true freedom is born from holiness.” – Pope St. John Paul II