I admit it freely; I have fallen behind on many things that I wanted to do for Lent, but somehow, this is okay. It is okay because I realized that it isn’t a race to the finish. None of this is “over” once Easter Sunday dawns. Until God calls me home, I will always need work. I will always need to keep striving toward conforming my heart to Jesus’s heart.
There once was a young girl who was in the check out line with her mother. It was then that she saw it; a beautiful plastic pearl necklace! She begged her mother to buy it for her, but her mother told her that if she really wanted it she would have to earn the $1.47 herself. Her mother told her that she could help with some chores around the house to earn a few bright shiny pennies, and reminded her that her birthday was coming up soon and she would surely get a new crisp dollar bill in the birthday card from her grandmother.
So the little girl worked very hard over the next few weeks and saved up all her earnings. She asked her neighbors if she could rake their leaves for ten cents and she did extra chores around the house. One day, she finally had enough money to buy the treasured necklace. She was so happy when her mom took her to the store to buy her necklace and she got to pay the woman at the check out with her very own hard earned money. The small girl wore her necklace everywhere. It made her feel so beautiful and grown up!
Now every night the little girl’s Daddy would read her a bedtime story, say nighttime prayers with her, and put her to sleep. But one night when the little girl’s Daddy was putting her to sleep he asked her a question. He asked, “Do you love me?” She replied, “Daddy, you know I love you more than anything!” Then he asked her if he could have her pearl necklace. “Oh Daddy,” said the little girl. “I can’t give you my necklace. I love it so much and it is so beautiful. But you can have my pink unicorn, the one I got for my birthday.” “That’s ok,” He said. “Daddy loves you, darling. Goodnight.” And he kissed her gently on the forehead as he left. Every night the loving father would patiently ask his daughter for the dime store necklace and every night she would refuse, offering one of her many other toys. But her father would always say it was ok, tell her how much he loved her and give her a good night kiss ever so gently on the forehead before leaving.
Then one night when her Daddy came in to put her to sleep he noticed that his little girl was crying. “What is wrong, honey?” He asked. With tears streaming down her cheeks she held out her tiny hand, and dropped her deeply treasured necklace into her father’s hand. “Here, Daddy.” She said, her voice shaking. “You can have my necklace.” To her surprise, her Father pulled out a beautiful velvet box and gave it to her. When she opened it, a beautiful genuine pearl necklace was revealed. You see, her father was just waiting for his daughter to let go of the plastic necklace, so he could reveal the real treasure he had in store for her.
What is your pearl necklace? What in this world are you so afraid to let go of? Your Father’s gifts for you are so much better. Let go of the counterfeits so your Father can give you the real thing. –Author Unknown (Reprinted with permission)
I think, especially for me, it is these things which are really hard to stop clinging to. It’s easy to give up sinful things. (Okay, no, it is not, but at least rationally, you can see *why* you should give them up.) It’s much harder to give up something which is good and not apparently causing you to sin. Our vision is narrow, and we can’t see beyond the good to the potential greater good which God is offering to us. Instead of trusting that God is good and wants the best for us, we question why. “Why would God want to take this good thing away from me?” We don’t understand and so we hold back from God. We don’t freely give everything that we have and that we are back to Him.
I have a couple things that I cling to like this. God may not be calling me to give them up, but I have to prepare my heart and my will for the possibility that He might at some time in the future. I have to be willing to completely abandon myself to His will. And this is a struggle — at least it is for me.
In his book, “The Gift of Faith,” Fr. Dajczer also speaks of the necessity of abandoning ourselves to God’s will. Do you *really* have faith in the goodness and generosity of God? We must trust Him in all things, great and small. This is a radical kind of faith and trust, and it is not come by easily. But, then, faith is not meant to be easy. It is wrung from us, drop by drop, collected and offered back to the Father as a complete gift of self. It is the very difficulty and completeness of the offering which makes it such a beautiful and precious gift. The best image that I have for this is the blood that Jesus sweat during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. He was perfectly obedient to the Father and had perfect trust in Him, yet clearly it cost Him a great deal to endure what He endured for our sake. And this is why His gift to us — of His entire self, being poured out drop by drop in the garden, at the pillar, and on the cross — is such an incredible gift. And also why our response needs to be so great in return.