My friend Maria, who grew up in Taiwan, tells the story of how she learned the complex process of writing in Chinese. Her mother, a woman who greatly valued education, stood behind her and, holding her daughter’s hand, directed each stroke of the pen, painstakingly forming each symbol in all its individual beauty. Her daughter learned through muscle memory, through the act of someone else directing her movement.

It is the same way, Maria says, that she learns from God. “All God wants us to do is submit to Him and He will take the ball and run with it.” It’s true. My friend’s writing lessons would never have succeeded if she had tried to form the letters on her own. She had to let go and allow her mother to do the work. It is the same way with God. The harder we try to direct our own spiritual path, the more we fall away from God.

As anyone who has tried — and failed — at a physical task knows, our bodies cannot be forced to do obey us. You may want, mightily, to return that tennis serve, to catch that soaring orb, to hurl your body backwards through space, and still be unable to do so. And doing a back flip is a cinch compared to controlling our destinies, spiritual or otherwise. It is when we admit that we are not in control, that we really shouldn’t be, that we can allow God to truly move us, to form the letters that spell out our spiritual journey.

Submission to God may be the hardest task we’re ever given. Oh, it’s easy enough to say, “I submit my will to God.” Then we instantly wreck it by going on our merry way, making deals, bartering, demanding, trying to make something of ourselves, when God could be doing all the work for us. And what’s more, God’s plan is infinitely better than our own.

I will admit it: I am a do-it-yourselfer. I am a trier. I believe in results garnered through great personal effort. I am uncomfortable with the idea of allowing transformation to happen in its own time. I’d much rather it happen in my time. So much for submission.

It sounds oxymoronic to try to let go, but that’s just what I need to do. My effort needs to go into relaxing into God’s guiding arms. No timetables. No expectations. Just a willing hand, holding a pen. And maybe, just maybe, through me, God will create a thing of beauty.

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