A little girl saves her pennies and buys what she believes is the most beautiful thing in the world: an imitation pearl necklace. She wears the dime-store accessory to school, during playtime, and even to bed. After having the necklace in her possession for some time, her father, who tucked her into bed gently and lovingly every night, began to ask her for the necklace. The little girl is confused. Why would her father want her to hand over her precious pearls? She responds by offering him her favorite doll. The next time he asks for the pearls, she offers her stuffed animals and various other toys that don’t mean nearly as much as those pearls that make her feel so beautiful and so grown up. Finally one night, realizing her father loves her and would never do anything to harm her, she hands him the pearls with tears in her eyes. In return, he reaches into his pocket and takes out a beautiful strand of genuine, shiny pearls.
Of course, the father in that story is our heavenly Father, who knows better than we do what is good for us. And we are the little girl, holding on tightly to what we know and love. In Luke 18:29-30, Jesus states, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
The vast majority of us will never be asked to give up our family to follow Christ, yet there are cases when this is so, when people are rejected by their families because of their faith and must continue on their faith journey alone. In smaller ways, though, we all are asked to hand over our families to Christ, to let go of our supposed “ownership” of them. Our spouses and children are given to us for a season of life, to love and care for, but each one ultimately belongs to God. Especially with a child, it can be so hard to realize and remember that he or she is God’s first and ours second. We need let go of our plans for that child, and trust in God’s plan for that child.
The same holds true in our own lives. How often we want to hold on to our own plans, and how often does God laugh! I wish I could tell you I’ve found the perfect recipe for letting go and letting God be in charge, but I haven’t. I offer my day to Him every morning, try to remember to say “Jesus, I trust in you” often, and remind myself that He is in charge of all those things I have no control over, and yet, I still struggle.
I’ve gotten somewhat better at accepting the everyday disturbances in my plans – not being able to go somewhere I had planned on because a child needs me, or getting stuck in traffic, or a change in an appointment, or having to wait in line for long periods of time, or missing key points of the Mass because I’m in the bathroom with a toddler – those kinds of things I just offer up and move on. But the big things, when God takes my plans and dreams and crushes them with a big giant fly swatter – oh, those I still am likely to cry over, big wracking sobs. It’s hard to trust that God knows best, that He has something better in mind – at least in light of eternity. Someday it will all be clear. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on letting go and trusting God. And maybe, someday, I’ll actually be good at it.