About seven months ago, I jotted three short lines in my prayer journal:
O Creator and Organizer
May I break myself down before You
To be rebuilt as I am meant to be
At the time, I think I meant that I wanted to be holier. I’d been actively trying to grow my faith life for a few months, feeling really called to get in touch with my faith on a deeper level because of a conviction that someone was praying for me. Somehow, this made my request for vulnerability seem rational and sensible, a task that I could probably take on by myself.
The problem: I promptly forgot about that prayer.
I spent the next few months living through a series of intense upheavals, culminating in a few quiet days during Christmas. “This prayer has begun to be answered,” I wrote below my short June reflection, “and I had no idea what I was asking for. Now, show me how to surrender.”
The idea of profound surrender is terrifying to me. Words like sacrifice and obedience are off-putting and counter-cultural in a culture that primes us to think of ourselves as individuals driven by success, achievement, and recognition. The expectations I held for my own life hung heavily on me, weighing me down in subtle, hardly noticeable ways and leaving me hesitant and resistant to change.
Providentially, Thomas Merton’s spiritual autobiography Seven Storey Mountain had landed in my hands around the same time. Merton was a modern man, drawn to fame, pleasure, and independence. His conversion and vocation to be a Cistercian monk was surprising to many, including Merton himself. He struggled with his superiors, struggled with humility, struggled with his desires for recognition and physical intimacy. And yet, he was holy. He was human.
At one point in Seven Storey Mountain, Merton addresses God:
“I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got [there]. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.”
I found myself remembering my own prayer: “Rebuild me.”
Being rebuilt would mean becoming more human, not less. My struggle with my baser desires is forever paired with my desire for holiness. Surrendering to the will of God would not mean losing my humanity, rather, my very humanity becomes an instrument of that Will. The Will wants to lead me to redemption, even if the path is obscured in my view and seems impossible to traverse. I must die to self, allowing Him to resurrect me as the person He desires for me to be.
So I am learning how to surrender, to be created in the image of God, every day, over again. I pray that someday, God will look upon His work and find it good.
Brigid Hogan is a Midwest native who lives, works, and worships in Washington, D.C. Her main hobby is painting her nails while watching Hulu but also reads, runs, and writes on her blog.