“A Measure of Success”

In all your affairs lean solely on God’s Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part work on in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that if you have trusted entirely to Him, you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.[1]

Again, words of wisdom from Francis de Sales….this reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” where he calls both success and failure imposters and tells his son to treat them just the same.  Of course Kipling did not have the context of God’s Providence in mind as the over-arching canvas upon which all events everywhere and every time are painted.  The canvas of Providence is much different, broader, wider, more encompassing than the canvas of the world, human society, the criteria of our limited perspective.

On the canvas of Providence, the Cross stands etched in human history as its centerpiece, glorious, magnificent, towering above all other events in the course of human events.  On the canvas of the world, human society, our limited perspective, it seemed an inconsequential blip on the radar of a backwater province of the Roman Empire, one more down-and-out, washed-up reformer, denounced by his nation, deserted by his followers, a soon-to-be-forgotten would-be messiah in the parade of many in that section of the world.

Providence is the means by which plans succeed, the sole means.  If it ain’t there, it ain’t happening.  To align our self with Providence, therefore, would seem to be not only prudent but essential for the efficacy of the undertaking.  Ignatius offers three venues by which to help me determine the correct choice, to do or not to do, which is truly the question since “to be” is not ethically in my hands.  The three are (a) standing before the Judgment Seat of God, (b) lying on one’s deathbed, and (c) giving advice to my best friend.  If the answer is the same, regardless of the venue, proceed.  If not, reevaluate.

Meanwhile, on your part work on in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that if you have trusted entirely to Him, you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.  Proceed, that is the answer, not languishing, not procrastinating, not diverting, no excusing, just proceed.  Endure. Persevere. Trudge on.  Fight on.  The Commander has the battle in hand.  Carry out your duties here and now.  That’s my job, my task, my assignment, my responsibility.

And this, regardless of my own inclinations, my own ennui, my own quiet desperation, my own frustration, my own lack of enthusiasm.  Offer all these up:  God enjoys gifts, all sorts of gifts.  Since these are obstacles around, over, under or through which I must get, I need His help, His grace, His strength, His Power, His tenacity, His Love, His inspiration, His Life.  See these are part of my cross and “take it up” daily and follow Him.  That’s all we are ordered to do.  Not win, not lose, not succeed, not fail, not revolutionize the universe or bedazzle the world with supposed brilliance, pseudo scribblings, solipsistic pensees.  Just stand up, pick up my cross and follow Jesus up the hill, trusting, believing, enduring, joining.  That’s it…that the job.

In quiet co-operation with Him…quiet, not flashy, no fanfare, just working side by side in the carpenter shop of life with Him.  Handing Him the tools He requests.  Doing the tasks He asks of me.  Laboring in yolk with Him that I might share in His reward.  And cooperation is required, we are not at odds here, butting heads, competing.  Perspective is important: Jesus is the boss, the head, the leader.  To Him belongs the power, the glory now and forever.  My job is not to save the savior.  My job is not even to be the savior.  My job is to work for, with and in the savior doing whatever He has in mind for me to do that moment, that hour, that day, that week.  Scratch “that week.”  Even He said: “Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”[2]

Then rest satisfied that if you have trusted entirely to Him…note that resting and being satisfied is dependent on having trusted entirely in Him.  Not mostly, not partially, not in myself, not in the world, not in others, just in Him.  He is reliable, steadfast, trustworthy, solid, the rock on whom I can trust, the solid friend on whom I can always count, the true buddy who always, always has my back, He who always comes through, never lets you down, never reneges, never changes His mind, never, never, never bails on me…the Gibraltar of my life, who will not die, save for me; will not leave me, save to redeem me; will not strand me, save to resurrect me; will not abandon me, save to ascend to send the Spirit, no matter what.  That’s the “Him” in whom I trust,…and who obviously can be trusted entirely.

But the “entirely” is from my side of the equation, not His.  I have to put myself out there on the line, let go of all the life-lines in which I trusted, the possessions, the memory, understanding and will, the next “whatever,” and stand naked without guy wires to hold me up and snatch me from disaster, and just trust entirely in Him.  He will clothe me, protect me, defend me, guide me, comfort me, there is no other.

And the result: “you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.”  A wise statement, not the measure of success which I would prefer to apply to the endeavor, but the measure most profitable for me.  That is a disconcertingly comforting thought, for it whips away my prerogative of perfectionism and reassures me that God is watching out for my best interests, here and now and there and always.  This means letting go and letting God, “loosing” control and gaining grace, dropping the reins and relying entirely, utterly and without qualms or concern about the outcome, on God. Such is humility which is not obtained or obtainable by seeking or trying to practice it.  It is a gift given me through reality, the unadulterated, un-gussied up, unadorned, stripped-down Truth about myself and the world around me and God and all else.  It is being me in its most elemental and plain true form.  Thus, it is not something sought or practiced, but rather lived.

God, please help me live in such humility, relying, trusting, cooperating with You in doing what You wish me to do when You wish me to do it.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life, Part Iii. Containing Counsels Concerning The Practice Of Virtue.  Chapter X. We must attend to the Business of Life carefully, but without Eagerness or Over-anxiety, pg. 70.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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