“The patient and humble endurance of the cross, whatever nature it might be, is the highest work we have to do.” – St. Katharine Drexel
Recently I was asked to give a talk at church. I struggle with clinical anxiety, so while I have to do it when necessary for my job, public speaking is particularly hard for me. But through prayer and discernment it was abundantly clear that God wanted me to speak. I fretted about it the entire week before worried I would not say what God wanted me to say. I prayed and asked for prayers, and even shed a few tears. I finished the talk only an hour or so before I was to give it, which only increased my anxiety. After my talk there was adoration, and I slunk on the floor exhausted from the effort it took to give the talk and control my body and voice from shaking. As I knelt there, I asked the Father: “Did I say what you wanted? Did I say the right thing? Did I make you proud?”
This is what I heard in response: “All I wanted was your yes. You said yes to Me; I am very proud of you.”
My heart beamed, my shoulders released in peace, and my eyes welled up. The Father was proud of me. He did not ask for me to speak perfectly, nor say certain words. He did not chide me for being anxious. He asked only that I be willing to do what He asked of me. All God wanted was my yes. This is so simple, and so profound.
In reflection, this is all God asks of any of us – to say yes to Him. To say yes, even when what is asked of us may trouble us or may seem impossible. This is what God asked of Mary at the Annunciation. To say yes, even when it may seem foolish to those around us. This is what Jesus asked of Peter and Andrew, James and John as He called them from their families and livelihood. To say yes, even when it is not what we want. This is what the Father asked of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. While Christ knew what was before Him, Mary and the Apostles did not. They did not know what exactly their yes meant. They simply said yes to the question before them. And then yes, again, and again, and again.
As I reflect on this further, sometimes the “ask” for our lives are dramatic and change the entire trajectory of our future. We know the stories of the martyrs, who were asked to sacrifice their lives for the Church. I know people who have dropped everything they were doing to follow a clear call to a religious vocation. For me though, I find that God asks things of me that seem much smaller but might feel no less difficult and still require sacrifice. The asks look different than martyrdom, but are calls none the same. It is waking extra early to pray alone, even though I would prefer to sleep. It is responding gently to a team member who is anxious about a project, when I have anxieties of my own. It is saying yes to more responsibility at work, while my anxiety increases proportionately. It is saying yes to public speaking, despite my fear of it. And sometimes, a yes to God means a no to another good. No, to a ministry I believe in because I’m called to spend time elsewhere. No to spending time with a friend because God wants me to let myself recharge.
Many times, these small daily yeses are not said eagerly or with good cheer as my limited vision can only see the challenge each yes may bring. But God uses my openness to Him nonetheless. Each of these small self-giving acts trains my heart to say yes more freely the next time. Each allows virtue to grow, the Spirit to move, and attunes our hearts to hear God speak.
I think this is at least in part what Christ means when He tells us “If anyone wishes to follow me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Each day, we are invited to consent to what God asks of us that day, even if it seems impossible, or crazy, or hard as it surely might have to Mary, the Apostles, and Jesus Himself. Each day, and many times throughout, I have the choice once again to submit to God, take up the cross He is offering, and follow Him. And each day, my prayer is that I have the grace and courage to do so.
Copyright 2020 Monica Markovich