My husband and I are tucked away in the woods in a little cabin on a lake in Southern Missouri. As has happened many times over the years, now that we are settled in, I am struck by how much our souls and our marriage needed this unexpected getaway. We are coming back from moving our youngest daughter, Beka, to Austin, Texas to live with her sister, Rachael. A significant life event for our family. At the same time, my almost 99-year-old mother, my children’s beloved grandmother, is in the final season of her life here on earth. Another significant life event. So, when we happened upon this sweet spot, we decided to land here for a couple of days before we re-enter our life in Illinois. To spend undistracted time in God’s presence and goodness, allowing God to declutter and refocus us, and to reconnect as a couple.
A few weeks ago, I asked my priest for some of his time. When my heart is heavy with either a relationship or a life event, I know that I need extra help, an extra portion of God’s grace. I have come to gratefully rely on the graces that I receive in what I call the three C’s—Counsel, Confession, and Communion. Father Greg graciously provided me with all three. After listening to my heart and hearing my confession, he prescribed this healing penance—to pray and meditate on the phrase Let Life Happen. What is God saying to me at this time in my life through this phrase?
Today in the early morning quiet, I came upon these words of Thomas Merton that describe this idea of letting it happen—whatever it is:
“To hope for something better in the future is not the theological virtue of hope. Theological hope is based on God alone, who is both infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful right now. Here is a formula to deepen and further the theological virtue of hope with its unbounded confidence in God. Let whatever is happening happen and go on happening. Welcome whatever it is. Let go into the present moment by surrendering to its content…The divine energies are rushing past us at every nanosecond of time. Why not reach out and catch them by continuing acts of self-surrender and trust in God?”
Thomas Merton, Reflections on the Unknowable
As I ponder the richness and depth of Merton’s words, I am reminded of some practical advice I have received along my journey. Like the popular twelve step recovery slogan—Let Go and Let God. I have been told that the world is in good hands—God’s hands. I can stop fighting reality, stop trying to do God’s part, and ask God for the grace to simply and bravely do my part.
Like a flower, life simply unfolds. If we rush it, we can ruin it. When we think of a flower blooming or the wonder of a newborn baby entering the world, we instinctively know that we must treat these new lives tenderly. We sense their preciousness and we tread lightly, aware that we are on holy ground. Letting it happen means that we treat life as the precious gift that it is—moment by moment.
My lived experience has led me to trust— Me just as I am, going to God just as God is. I can cry out to God like a child cries out to a parent. I can trust Grace. When I sense the Almighty’s wisdom, love, and power, I am less apt to meddle in the lives of others. I am convicted and humbled by these words of Theresa of Avila:
“Let us look at our own shortcomings and leave other people’s alone; for those who live carefully ordered lives are apt to be shocked at everything and we might well learn very important lessons from the persons who shock us. Our outward comportment and behavior may be better than theirs, but this, though good, is not the most important thing; there is no reason why we should expect everyone else to travel by our own road, and we should not attempt to point them to the spiritual path when perhaps we do not know what it is…It is better to attempt to…live in silence and in hope, and God will take care of God’s own.”
Theresa of Avila, Interior Castle
God’s grace helps me come to peace with what is and what I am. To accept life in all its glorious fullness—the new births, the sudden or anticipated deaths, the new adventures, the unknown and the uncomfortable. Even this year’s election. I can simply let it all happen. I can look to God like a little child and trust Grace. In the safety of God’s loving embrace, I am able to look for evidence of the abundance of the present moment. I am able to savor. I can smile as my prayer to God. Out of this dependent stance, abiding in God’s love, I am guided to respond to others and to life’s events as they unfold in a way that is life-giving and helpful to all.
I am enjoying the trees this autumn so full of splendor with their brilliant changing colors. Soon these splendid leaves will turn dry and wrinkled, and the trees will let them go. We experience this dramatic example of letting go every year. We trust that this is part of nature’s process. We trust that the trees will bud again in the greenness of spring’s new life cycle. We let it happen and we enjoy the process.
As I enjoy this little corner of nature, God’s gift to me for such a time as this, I pray for the grace to trust the path that God has for me and for the world:
God of wisdom and source of all that is sacred—
I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you. (2 Chron 20:12)
I’ll end with a haiku that I wrote a few years ago:
Let go. Trust Me. Be here.
Relax. Experience and savor the mystery.
Let it be as We.