The idea snuck up on me. While casually pondering our vacation plans this past July, I realized everyone else in my family had to go back to work one week earlier than I did. It hit me, “Why not devote that time to a silent prayer retreat?” I have done this kind of thing before, but the last one had been three years ago and I could tell. There were things in my soul that had gotten twisted and fuzzy. These were not the kind of issues that could be fixed in a daily devotion—even a long one. I needed extended time to be still and listen.
My 5-day retreat started with a heartfelt desire for clarity. I needed to hear from God about some specific areas of my life. I wanted to know, deep down, precisely the next steps I should take. Surely, the Lord could oblige. But the whole endeavor got derailed when I ran across this story from Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust.
“When John Kavanaugh, the noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.
“When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. ‘What do you want me to pray for?’ she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: ‘Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.’
“’No,’ Mother Teresa answered, ‘I will not do that.’
“When he asked her why, she said, ‘Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.’
“When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: ‘I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.’”
To be honest, her portrayal of clarity as “the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of” kind of stung me. Then it ticked me off. “What’s so wrong with wanting clarity?” I inwardly protested. Only several days into the retreat was I able to see my push for clarity for what it really was—a craving for control. I keep learning that God doesn’t invite us to control things. It’s above our wisdom grade. Instead, we’re invited to trust God for the many things we can’t control. It’s about surrender.
In the end, I didn’t get the clarity I wanted on anything. I got something better. A deeper relationship with God built on trust. It’s the only way I’ve found to be less clingy.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5