Thy Will Be Done

As if in answer to my question this morning: what I heard when I got in the car to go to practice this afternoon, by the by getting caught in some of the worst traffic we've had on Lake Shore Drive in the past few months, thanks to the fact that all but one lane was closed off for roadworks today.

St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), on why she wrote what was to become one of the great classics of spiritual instruction:

"Few tasks which I have been commanded to undertake by obedience have been so difficult as this present one of writing about matters relating to prayer: for one reason, because I do not feel that the Lord has given me either the spirituality or the desire for it; for another, because for the last three months I have been suffering from such noises and weakness in the head that I find it troublesome to write even about necessary business. But, as I know that strength arising from obedience has a way of simplifying things which seem impossible, my will very gladly resolves to attempt this task although the prospect seems to cause my physical nature great distress; for the Lord has not given me strength enough to enable me to wrestle continually both with sickness and with occupations of many kinds without feeling a great physical strain. May He Who has helped me by doing other and more difficult things for me help also in this: in His mercy I put my trust.

"I really think I have little to say that I have not already said in other books which I have been commanded to write; indeed, I am afraid that I shall do little but repeat myself, for I write as mechanically as birds taught to speak, which, knowing nothing but what is taught them and what they hear, repeat the same things again and again. If the Lord wishes me to say anything new, His Majesty will teach it me or be pleased to recall to my memory what I have said on former occasions; and I should be quite satisfied with this, for my memory is so bad that I should be delighted if I could manage to write down a few of the things which people have considered well said, so that they should not be lost. If the Lord should not grant me as much as this, I shall still be the better for having tried, even if this writing under obedience tires me and makes my head worse, and if no one finds what I say of any profit."

It's a paradox, is it not? Those things which we do because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we should or that we do for money are invariably more difficult than those things which we do because they are our gift, the hare that we have caught sight of and chase, not because we have been told to or because we see others chasing it, but rather because it is ours to chase. And yet, how much easier it is to do something when someone else has told us to, for example, in yoga class or on a syllabus. Under such circumstances, we gladly give our obedience (well, most of the time) whether because we trust our teachers to guide us or because being told to do the work somehow makes possible that which we could never have done otherwise.

So is what God wants us to do what we find easiest or what we find hard? We usually think of God as asking things of us that are difficult and therefore of obedience as something that is burdensome, albeit "good for us." But maybe the reason we find the things that we think we should do hard is because they are not what God wants for us, otherwise He would give us the strength to do them, in which case they would be easy. Which is why He says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). So the trick, it would seem, is listening closely enough such that we can hear what it is that God is asking us to do with the catch that if we don't listen and end up trying to do something else, we will have only ourselves to blame if we find the going difficult.

Hmmm.... I need to think about this!


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