The Snoring Scholar, and came across her post about The Prayer of Abandonment. I love her perspective and her honesty on why it is hard to pray. I have to admit, there was a time when I, too, struggled with the thought of giving all to God and asking only for his will to be done... and nothing else. Perhaps my resistance reflected that all was going well.
But last year was not so. I found it very easy to pray this prayer. In fact, it flowed out of me with complete, well...abandonment. I didn't even know the prayer had a name and written verse. It was as natural as waking up in the morning.
And that's why the prayer came to me, because I was afraid of what the morning might bring. Or should I say that the prayer came from me, from deep down inside of my needs? In fact, when I read it on Sarah's blog, I was amazed to see that that's exactly what I prayed. Surely, we are built for God, made in his image, and we know instinctively how to turn to him.
During the past three years, my husband has been suffering from an illness that has stymied the doctors. My poor man has been subjected to all sorts of tests, drugs, and various doses of radiation in MRIs and X-rays and yet to no conclusion. He has been pilled, poked, prodded, and scoped, then met with a shrug from doctors who called “uncle.” All this for a man who in the past wouldn't have even taken Tylenol for a headache.
Between Labor Day of 2009 and Christmas of 2010, he lost fifty-five pounds inexplicably. His skin turned blue, while his body temperature hovered at 95 degrees, even on hot days. He wore sweatshirts while the rest of us ducked for shade and sought cool drinks. Slowly, he began to shuffle and his former Viking-strength was waning fast. To top it off, his blood pressure refused to budge from 70 over 40.
During one of his hospital stays, a nurse came in to take his vitals. She wrapped the cuff around his arm and clicked on the machine. Brrrrr. Grrrr. Up went the cuff, down went the cuff. The nurse tapped on a button.
“Hmm. Let's try that again.”
Brrr. Grrr. Up went the cuff, down went the cuff.
Hubby sat quietly.
Tap, tap, tap.
“That can't be right. Hold on, Honey.”
“No, wait, really. That's right.”
“Oh, I'm getting another machine.”
In rolled the new one. Brrr. Grrr. The cuff did its thing.
“Well, now, it's GOT to be the cuff.”
“No, really...” But she was gone.
New cuff. No good.
New nurse. No good.
“I'm tryin' to tell ya. That's my blood pressure. Honest.”
Both nurses looked at my baby in amazement.
“Mr. Blease, how is it you are awake and talking to us?”
How is it indeed.
One night, as we lay in bed, I rolled over to snuggle with him. Roger's hand was draped over his side, and I tried to wrap my fingers around it. Strange. I couldn't do it. I tried again. Again. But I just couldn't get my fingers around his hand. Then I realized. This wasn't his hand. These were his ribs! I spent the night praying and crying. Every night, I slept knowing that the morning just might bring a new reality, and that's what I was afraid of.
It was a tough year. Today, as I sit with my laptop and tap out this essay, I'm happy to report that, while my husband is not healed, he has managed to gain weight and some strength. And his blood pressure is almost normal. Praise God! And I really do mean PRAISE GOD!
So what about the Prayer of Abandonment? During that difficult year, I could think of only two things: keeping my husband, and letting God take over. Many nights I went to bed praying, “Lord, if you take him during the night, please give me strength to follow your will. I just want your will."
The prayer of abandonment came so easily to me because I knew without reservations that only God could take care of my husband. It was much too big for me, for us—and too big for all those doctors we turned to. Remember, too, that in the midst of this, my husband was supporting us and we were raising and homeschooling our children. (He still is, and we still are.)
The Lord does not cause these things to happen to us so we can learn a lesson. No, indeed, although there is plenty to be learned. But I do believe that he allows us to live in our own humanity, and grieves with us and let's us turn to him. He encourages us to ask him to carry us, which he does so willingly. Most importantly, however, he won't force himself on us. He is a gentle lover, so he waits for us to say Yes to him before he will take hold of our lives. Then we need to pay attention, for his moves can be small, careful, and oh-so patient.
I can honestly say that when there is no one or nothing that can solve the problem, it a great comfort to know that God' will will prevail. It is a joy that lives inside our sorrow. Just think of the cross and the crucifixion. A glory from suffering. The cross, what was once considered a symbol of shame, is now a symbol of glory and abiding belief in Christ's complete love. He showed it to us in the place of skulls.
Each day, I asked the Lord and His Father in Heaven for his will, and he usually called me to do simple things. Foot rubs. Cups of tea. Another blanket. Keeping the kids a little quiet(er). A few kisses on the forehead. Sometimes I wanted to say, “Hey, Lord. That's it? In the face of all this, this is it? A foot rub?” Surely, I can handle more than this. I can enact something bigger and better. I can take charge. But, no. The Lord binds our wounds first and gives his loved ones comfort. He calls us to be his hands. I was his hands.
I was beginning to understand St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and her little ways.
Whatever your sorrow might be, whatever difficulties you might face—whether they are small or big—know that God has cultivated a special plan for you and just for you—the ultimate copyright, if you will. You can find out by following his will. There is no other way to see what he wants for you. Be not afraid. “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Don't discount small steps he might ask you to take. Last year at this time, the future seemed so big and ominous. But now I can see that many times the big leaps are made in tiny, faithful, and quiet ways. We just need to abandon ourselves to them.
The Prayer of Abandonment
by Charles de Foucald
(a French martyr of the 20th century)
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.