How to know what it would take to say yes to God
Every Advent this line from Caryll Houselander comes to mind. For Advent, I read her book, The Reed of God. In it, she writes this:
“When I was a small child someone for whom I had great respect told me never to do anything that Our Lady would not do; for, she said, if I did, the angels in heaven would blush.
For a short time this advice “took” in me like an inoculation, causing a positive paralysis of piety.
It was clear to me that all those things which spelt joy to me were from henceforward taboo – blackening my face with burnt cork, turning somersaults between props in the garden wall, putting two bull’s-eyes into my mouth at the same time – all that was over! But even if I faced a blank future shackled with respectability, it was still impossible to imagine our Lady doing anything that I would do, for the very simple reason that I simply could not imagine her doing anything at all.”Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God
This lack of connection can be a problem. It is important to note that this book was not written just a few years ago. She wrote the book in 1944 during the Second World War. But she saw brokenness, and she knew the world needed to reach out to the Blessed Virgin as a source of prayer and comfort.
So, in an attempt to help I pose a question. What would it take to say yes to God? Knowing how to do something like this is essential for our salvation. God freely gives salvation, but we need to know how to accept it. And not only does Mary teach us by example how to say yes to God, but she also freely offers to pray on our behalf so that we would be more likely to say yes to God.
The first principle to acknowledge is that the most important consideration in anything we learn is to be able to ask ourselves how it is we find meaning and purpose in what we do. We can learn how to do a lot of things in science class, for example, but science alone is incapable of helping us to know whether we should do what we can do.
I love history. I think largely because history is a collection of stories. However, history alone cannot tell us what these stories all mean. Our lives are a quest to find meaning and purpose. But without God, finding such meaning can be quite difficult indeed.
What is clear is that people all over the place on earth are also all over the place when it comes to finding God and doing what he tells us. For some, their faith is critically important. They do everything with God in mind, and they stive to see the world the way God sees the world.
But how to become like this? Therein is the question. Each of us needs to think carefully how to come about being able to say yes to God. And, to be sure, there are many people who do not see the world in this way. They may even practice their faith, but not really consider outside of going to church how it is that God wants them to live.
And there are people who might almost never seek the way of seeing God. Perhaps they grew up in a family that never thought about God, and hence never taught about him. Someone in this case could find it quite difficult to know how to mold their lives in a different way. Is this you?
Here are three concrete suggestions. First, be grateful. Think of something each day and thank God for people and things that are blessings in your life. When we focus on what we have, we can often see blessings. When we are jealous and envious our focus is on what we do not have. Focusing on blessings makes us happier.
Second, do an intentional act of kindness, especially to those you do not like, know or get along with in your life. When we can turn our focus outward to help others, we also can find ourselves focused more on meaning and pupose.
Lastly, try to pray each day. Bring those you love before God. Be sure to be grateful. Pray for those you do not like. Just spend some time in silence. Go to Mass and Confession. And ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray.
God may very well be calling you to learn more how to pray and grow closer to him. So each day be prepared to imitate Mary in your life. Say to God, when he asks you to do his will, yes.