Most people, I would guess, don’t really think about what God wants as opposed to what they want. Sometimes those ideas converge, but I would hazard a guess that often they do not.
American fiction writer Flannery O’Connor was someone who struggled constantly with her relationship with God. She was conflicted about her strong desire to be a successful writer versus what God wanted for her.
Excerpts from her journal from 1946, as published in The New Yorker (“My Dear God,” September 16, 2013), testify to her struggles to maintain her relationship with God through prayer and her strong desire to live in God’s grace.
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.” (p. 26)
Twelve-step programs are founded on the notion of “thy will not my will.” After all, when people with addictions followed their own desires, look where they ended up!
However, it is easier said than done to spiritually push oneself aside and turn our lives over to God (whatever our definition of God may be). That’s where the notion of trust comes in.
In psychological terms, trust develops from infancy when one has reliable caregivers. A strong and healthy attachment to one’s primary caregiver is critical. The insecure attachment that develops when the caregiver is not consistent and reliable often haunts a person throughout life. Sometimes the first relationship that helps strengthen trust is with a psychotherapist. This hopefully leads to a stronger trust of self and then others.
It is difficult to trust God if fellow humans have been disappointing, especially in those very critical early days, months, and years of life. This is sad because our attachment to God is really the only truly secure attachment that will never be inconsistent, unreliable, and weak.
Of course, it is possible to develop a distorted attachment to God. It goes by the name of fanaticism, which unfortunately is rampant in today’s world.
But fanaticism aside, having that trust in spirit is not easy at times, especially when it appears to us that our lives are not going as planned. It is normal to wonder what’s happening as we see our livelihoods being threatened, our relationships suffering, and our morals eroding.
Difficult as it may be, when life is not going as we had planned, those are the times when spiritual trust is of the essence. It allows us to consider that we are perhaps getting in our own way, perhaps by staying attached to people, places, and things that would be better off let go, or by living in fear that it will always be this way and that there is no room for improvement.
It is normal to feel despair at times. Despair is a lack of hope. Sometimes in those very depths of despair, there is an opportunity to let go. To turn our lives and our will over to the care of God. To be that vulnerable soul who is looking for answers, and even to be shown the important questions.
Flannery O’Connor became a successful writer, and hopefully she felt it happened with God’s blessing. After all, how could it not?
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