Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let it be...

A favourite saying is, "God helps those who help themselves." I think the phrase can be understood correctly, but in most practical situations it is pure heresy. Scripture clearly says God helps those who trust in God, not those who help themselves.

We need to be told that so strongly because of our entire "do it yourself" orientation. As educated people, as Americans, our orientation is to do it. It takes applying the brakes, turning off our own power and allowing Another.

What the lordship of Jesus means is that first we come to him, first we put things into his hands. Our doing must proceed from our being. Our being is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p.77

Risk all for love, Jesus tells us, even your own life. Give that to me and let me save it. The healthy religious person is the one who allows God to save.

If this is the ideal Christian attitude toward God, then Mary is the ideal Christian of the Gospels. She sums up in herself the attitude of the poor one whom God is able to save. She is deeply aware of her own emptiness without God (Luke 1:52). She longs for the fulfilment of God’s promise (1:54); she has left her self open, available for God’s work (1:45, 49). And when the call comes, she makes a full personal surrender: "Let it be!" (1:38).

Rohr, ibid., p. 322

It's strange, but when I've really come into some dark place, when it seems as though the risk is too great, and the cost too hard to bear, and I've turned, as always, to the Jesus Prayer, then this is precisely what I seem to hear from God. His love, his mercy, is so great that there truly is nothing to fear, and all we are called to do is surrender, in those words of Mary's, "Let it be". His longing for our good, for our utter and final welfare, is so great that he will bring us through anything, even through the gates of death itself...

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you...

Isaiah 43.2-5

I don't know of any contemporary writer who has put this as clearly or as movingly as Paul McCartney, in his song "Let it Be", written in 1969 but not released, with the Beatles, until the following year. Paul wrote the song following a dream, and sang it live at the memorial service for his wife Linda, at St. Martins in the Fields, 1998:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine until tomorrow, let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me,
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.

6 comments:

  1. I love that song. Beautiful. It was about a dream he had about his mother, I think from memory? Really touchingly beautiful. I was just listening to Abbey Road yesterday. Didn't get to Let it Be ... I shall today, and shall think of you.

    Mike, thanks for the things you post. They are always edifying and comforting. A lot of the time they are confronting also. This post is confronting for me. I fail so much at laying myself down for God in certain areas - or at least, that is how it feels to me. But who knows what is going on in the inward parts? Those parts that are not fully conscious but which commune wiht God? Those parts hidden with Christ in God.

    Lovely :)

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  2. "'God helps those who help themselves.' I think the phrase can be understood correctly, but in most practical situations it is pure heresy. Scripture clearly says God helps those who trust in God, not those who help themselves."

    Amen, and thank you, thank you, thank you for saying that so clearly.

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  3. Thank you, Mike. To give up the erroneous notion that we can control life, events, or other people, is to 'let go and let God' and let it be. There is much to be said for initiatve, but we have to recognise when being a human doing will not help. This requires discernment, including in what we pray for. For instance, if a loved one is dying, it is tempting to say 'Save them o Lord' - - but what if for them this means only more pain? Knowing when to say 'thy will be done' and let it be is a fine fine art.

    peace and all good

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  4. God speaks to each of us in unique ways, I think. As one of those pragmatic and self-reliant (to a fault) Americans and brought up in NYC, no less, God responds to my fears with a question: What have I ever done to you? Good question. Whenever I needed someone to help me through a bad patch, God was there for me (whether I was conscious of it or not). When reminded of that, it is easier to surrender. Thanks, as always, Mike, for a thoughtful post.

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  5. If there are words that get me going it is "God helps those..."

    Yet, I struggle like anyone to not be in control of what happens.

    Once again, I come here to start the day and am graced with your words and interpretations of the words of others... which is a perfect balm for my soul considering that I was thinking of how short my time was and how much I "have" to do today.

    Let it be.

    Peace Mike.

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  6. Thank you, people!

    Kelly, that's a very good point about praying for the sick. Hard. And it always feels like such a cop-out to say, "If it be your will..."!

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