Originally published March 14, 2016
Part of the “Letting Go” series of Franciscan Mission Service
When a relationship central to my identity dissolved without warning, I became incredibly disoriented. Why was something so good and joyous being taken from me? I prayed and prayed for the Lord to restore my former life.
In great distress and with a numb heart, I wandered to church to confess some routine sins of bitterness and pride and to, when sobs overcame me, receive unintended spiritual direction.
From the confessional, Fr. Anthony handed me a Kleenex and shared a paradigm that has since changed my life: Perhaps the Lord is saving you from your bitterness.
At that exact moment, my heart was opened to the message. I saw my anguish as a means of edification to lead me from my iniquities and purify my heart. Not only that, but I could envision this new path, unlike my former path, answering agonized and desperate prayer from the past to learn patience, compassion, mercy — if only I surrendered.
I instantly decided to resign to my circumstances — any and all that came to me. I chose to give in to my conditions as blessed opportunities to grow in virtue, and I let go of the path and pain to which I clung.
Since adopting this mindset, every moment has been a beautifully painful challenge — the sort perfectly conducive to growth.
The last few months with Franciscan Mission Service have been particularly fruitful.
I joined the program as a fixedly industrious idea-person with an eight-to-five office mentality. I efficiently prioritized tasks and thought gregariousness not only futile but detrimental to office productivity and the organizational mission. My service placement, Little Friends For Peace (LFFP), was an immediate shock. I was to be working 35 hours scattered across weekends, nights, mornings — and my priority was relationship. I was to close out of Microsoft Office, log off my email, and instead offer a compassionate ear.
Instinct told me to preserve my efficient task-orientation and, as I may have seen it, use it to “improve” the nonprofit to reflect my concept of a productive work environment. Instead, I surrendered. Rather than change my circumstances, I let them change me. I chose to view the challenge as an answer to prayer and to spot opportunities to grow in generosity, gentleness, and empathy.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my steady transformation inspired by LFFP. I walk more slowly — lingering in the presence of people instead of rushing to complete my next spreadsheet. I listen harder — investing in the sacred revelations of their hearts rather than mentally organizing the next newsletter. I prioritize differently — embracing a paradigm that meaningful productivity is not the completion of a checklist but service to fellow human beings.
In letting go of my desired answers to prayer and accepting the circumstances given to me, I have been blessed with great companionship, inner peace, and freedom, and it was only through trustful surrender that I was privileged to grasp these elements.
Original publication: http://franciscanmissionservice.org/2016/03/letting-go-of-bitterness/