by Celia Hales. Revised with title change; previously published.
More than three decades ago, on a hot summer night in June, I checked into a Holiday Inn in Dallas, Texas–half a continent away from family and friends. The national conference of my professional organization was underway. It was good to be among so many people who shared a common vocation. Still, the trip to Dallas had been long, and I looked forward to an evening alone, an evening to relax and to reflect upon the directions that my life seemed to be taking. I did a lot of reflecting at this point; it was a bit of a preoccupation, as I had been through much change, including a change of vocation, and I needed time to sort out all of this change.
The room was quiet after I turned off the evening news, leaving a dark television screen. There was no radio. The telephone was silent also, the call back home already made. Propped up on pillows, I read slowly and easily some favorite inspirational leaflets. Casually I thumbed through the Gideon Bible, selecting favorite passages for the comfort that they provided and the quiet frame of mind that they induced. Peace of mind and soul crept in. I began the kind of leisurely, non-formalized prayer that had characterized my “alone” times as a child. I felt gratitude for a life that I was finding increasingly abundant in both inner and outer ways. I seemed to reach downward into the depths of my soul, a sense that came unsought but which I much appreciated. Moments sped by, but time lost all meaning. My gratitude opened my heart to another feeling, a deep, profoundly deep sense of being loved. I realized that this sense, felt in my own way, was the peace that passeth understanding.
I lay down the Bible, pushed aside the leaflets. Letting this wondrous peace envelop me, I let my mind wander in total relaxation. Very suddenly, but not totally unexpectedly, I felt new intuitions rise to the surface. I sensed, as though from God Himself, that God’s love meant something more than I had known before. A realization, half-formed in revelry, became clear words in my mind:
God’s help in this life is a free offer–a gift that He longs to share with anyone who will open up to Him in total and utter-self surrender.
And there was more:
Only in surrender can come help of the intense degree that God would like to offer, because only when self gets out of the way can God’s silent action in the heart take root.
As I reflected over these ideas, I felt immense relief, a sense of “too good to be true.” What about the Protestant work ethic, the belief that faith without works is dead, the belief that God helps those who help themselves?
Surely the works would come, I mused, but they would be God’s works, works done through me, not by me, and infinitely better than would ever be possible by self-effort. Life did not have to be lived laboriously; indeed, life should not be lived laboriously.
“Let me handle it,” God seemed to say. “I want to handle all the myriad details of everyday living. I want to smooth the way for you. All of this, if you will remain surrendered to me–and you must remain surrendered or I cannot act in all of these countless ways, as much as I might wish to do so.”
I relaxed in this new intuition. I could have read the same message in any number of inspirational books, and I could have deduced it from biblical teachings. Why had I not before realized this great gift? Why had I striven so hard, even in the midst of affirmations of faith? Perhaps life is not meant to be a struggle.
Radical thoughts, perhaps, but they came to me with a certainty that I had come to recognize as God’s Voice.
Several months later, as I sought to put form and order to the experience, I would wonder if this were the secret in the words, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).
This night, though, there was no reasoning about the experience–only a kind of wondering surprise that God’s truth could be so simple and yet, heretofore, so elusive. Why, indeed, had I struggled so hard? Why, indeed, do any of us struggle so hard?
OVERHEARD IN AN ORCHARD
Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavently Father
Such as cares for you and me.”