When I was a child it never failed that people would inquire what I wanted to be when I was grown. I think it is a question every adult asks every child. As I grew, and particularly as I neared the end of my high school years, those questions intensified and people quizzed me regularly. To be honest, I had many things I wanted to be when I grew up; I had so many dreams. I could see myself being a vet, a teacher, a writer, an archeologist, a psychologist, a meteorologist, a wife, and a mother.
Some people pushed me towards one career; others pushed me in another way. Everyone thought they knew exactly what I needed to do with my life. They thought they knew what was best for me. I know they each had good intentions and they believed their advice was better than what others were offering me.
I didn’t follow their plans. My mom and stepdad were disappointed in me when I decided to go to a local Catholic college and marry my high school sweetheart instead of going to Notre Dame. When we married before my first year of college was even done, my in-laws told me I would never finish school and that they worried I wouldn’t do anything with my life. I’m pretty sure that both sets of parents worried that I was wasting my God-given talents and that I was going to let my life, and all the opportunities that awaited me, slip through my hands.
But I knew that I was being called to more than what they wanted for me. I decided to follow my heart and what I felt God was leading me to do. I never looked back.
We often talk about the things we want in life- our goals, our dreams, our hopes, and our desires. When people ask us what we want out of life we can rattle off a number of things- particular jobs, a beautiful house, a vacation, a new pair of jeans, our kids to get into the best colleges, a new car. Our daily prayers may be a list of “Dear God, I need… please give me… Amen.” It’s easy to get disappointed when the things we think we want and need aren’t delivered to us in a timely fashion or at all.
How often do we think about what God wants for us? Are we so busy making a list of demands that we fail to recognize what God thinks we need or is guiding us to do?
The Our Father is considered the perfect prayer. Given to us by Christ himself, the simple prayer is based solely in unselfish love. As simple and well-known as it is, I wonder how many of us have ever thought about the words of the prayer.
It’s easy to say the words of the prayer; it’s harder to mean them. While giving God praise and adoring Him is perhaps second nature, do we really mean all the words of the prayer as we speak them? As we pray, “Thy will be done”, do we truly want God’s will to guide our lives?
I would venture to say that when most of us begin to contemplate what we want or need out of life, we don’t necessarily ask God to weigh in on our decisions. We can see our situation and we can judge what we need and want, right? God doesn’t care what kind of car we buy or if this job is going to be perfect for us. We keep Him on the sidelines for the really big stuff- illnesses, despair, death, and to listen to us complain about what we don’t have. How much more wonderful would our lives be if we allowed God’s will to guide us in all our decisions? How much more peace would we experience if we gave over our worries and said, “Thy will be done”?
So why don’t we trust God more? To be honest, I think as humans we experience other human beings letting us down and we become conditioned to think that we have to rely solely upon ourselves to get ahead. We may question if God will also let us down if we put too much trust in Him.
Society tells us also that we are the masters of our own lives. What we want is all that is important. How we get there is completely up to us! But should we be the masters of our lives when we are so ill prepared for the problems that arise in life or should we rely on Someone who knows what He is doing and loves us more than we could possibly love ourselves AND wants more for us than we could possibly want for ourselves?
When nothing in life seems to be going right, when we feel lost and alone, and when we wonder how we could get it all wrong, we must look to God and trust in Him. We can’t see what He has planned for us but we can be assured that He loves us more than we could possibly know and He always wants what is best for us. His plans are better than anything we could imagine!
It is hard to be patient and to wait on God to reveal His plans. When we are knee-deep in problems or overwhelmed by disappointment it can be so difficult to see where God is in all the chaos. But He is always there. Often it is not until we have placed time and space between us and what is weighing on us now that we see the glory of His plans in our lives.
Many times I have to remind myself that just because I want something doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for me or that it is the right time for it. The stubborn child in me likes to throw a little tantrum sometimes (“Why God?! Why won’t you let me have this?! I want it so much! Please, please, please let me have it!”). And yet, ever the loving parent, God doesn’t budge. He only gives me what I need, when I need it. Unlike me who can see only in the here and now, God sees through all time to know how each decision will ultimately affect my life. I can’t possibly know what He knows. I can’t possibly understand what is good for me in the way that He can. I know what I want and yet He knows what I need.
Lately people have been asking my teen children what they plan to do with their lives as they near the end of high school and as they have entered the “adult world”. They have ideas of what they’d like to do and yet they are still confused. The pressure is intense and they feel overwhelmed. As I look at my beautiful children so eager to do something with their lives and stressing when people hound them about colleges and careers and “adult issues”, I tell them that the first thing they should do is to ask God what He wants them to do. If they pray for His Will to be done in their lives, then the rest will work itself out. He will guide them.
I try to practice what I preach to my kids. While I have accomplished much of what my parents and in-laws thought I never would, I still have other personal goals and would love to be a Catholic speaker and published author. I also want my kids to be healthy and happy, my marriage to be strong and fulfilling, my heart to be full, and to have everything we need. However, now more than ever, before I ask for all of these things, I pray for God’s will to be done in my life. I feel if I pray for God’s will then I can find the good in anything that happens in my life. The trials, the crosses, the triumphs, the joys, the sadness and despair can all lead me into a closer relationship with God and that ultimately leads to true happiness.
Praying “Thy will be done” is abandoning our selfish wants and embracing God’s love in a way that tells Him, “I trust in You, Lord.”