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A year of restlessness

First slide

Yesterday, someone said that this has been her year of restlessness, of tossing and turning and rarely sleeping well. Her head hits the pillow and her brain goes into hyperdrive. All the scenarios. All the internal conversations. All night long. With the dawn, she is not rested and is even more poorly equipped to face the day than when she went to bed. Still, she launches headlong into a day of serving. She works hard, and then she works some more. She does it because she wants to have control, particularly when it seems as if the world is spinning wildly. She wants to fix things, make them right, heal them. I think many of us have lived the days and nights that she describes.

Restless nights, frenzied days. We just want some semblance of control. We want to control because we fear. If we are prone to fear, this year has fed that tendency and made it flourish. Fear is not what God intends for us this year — or ever. My sure sense — when I’m not tossing and turning or working myself into frenzied exhaustion — is that we are called to surrender. To trust God enough to let him order life. We need to finally live life as if God is the omni, not us.

He is omnipresent. When our children are little, we really are in their lives 24/7; we can and should control the environments of the small people in our care. Becoming quite adept at that, we fall prey to the false sense that we really can be there all the time. We can make it all better. Then they grow up and we learn that we can’t. To put a finer point on it, neither can they. Pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, civil unrest, political rancor, death — none of it is in our control. It has been a year to learn both resilience and surrender, drawing deep from the well of grace in order to have strength for a new, uncertain day and truly knowing, perhaps for the first time, that we are not masters of the universe. He is. This is the year to lean into him and trust that he loves us more than we can even imagine.

God is omniscient so we don’t have to be. We don’t know everything. The older I get, the more I recognize that life is one steep learning curve. Many of the ideas I thought I understood, I didn’t really understand at all. It’s important to keep a teachable spirit. To surrender means to listen well and to let go of the preconceptions held tightly so that I might be open to understanding the people around me, even those people I might think have nothing worthy to offer. 

Only God knows everything, so I can stop trying to read everything on the internet right now. St. Thomas Aquinas called it “curiositas.” It is a vice to be addicted to readily available information, scattered and distracted and none the wiser for the web search. The virtue opposite curiositas is studiousness. Curiositas is the easy clicking, the bored, restless pursuit of knowing, but not necessarily of knowledge. Studiousness is the virtue that strengthens our perseverance in pursuing the higher but harder-to-reach pleasures of worthy knowledge. God knows everything. I don’t need to know everything. Indeed, it would be far wiser to surrender to knowing just a few things and knowing them well.

Furthermore, not everyone needs to know what I know, or think I know. Often it’s better not to join the conversation, particularly online.

God is omnipotent, but I’m not. I can do nothing under my own power. Everything good that I do or say or accomplish I do under his strength and with his grace. There is no other way. Here’s where we meet fear and stare it down. We spin our wheels because we fail to trust that God’s got this. It’s that simple. We want to be all-powerful, to conquer, to control our lives and our children’s lives so that only good and nothing bad will happen. 

The desire to control is the enemy of surrender. It exhausts, depletes, frustrates, depresses and suffocates a life of grace. It is grace I want to live, not pursuit of control. It is surrender I need, not power.

Grace is in the surrender. We aren’t called to conquer everything. We are called to be little, and tender, and childlike in faith, to relinquish worrying about our insufficiency. God wants our weakness. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9).

Surrender is knowing that when we go to bed at night and we feel like nothing is certain, and our hearts seem too bruised and broken to be beautiful in anyone’s sight, he’s there, ready to fill us with ample grace and strength to do what he would have us do, no matter the news of the day, no matter how sharply the world tilts off its axis. 

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

@elizabethfoss