I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you;
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself into your hands,
without reserve and without boundless confidence.
Charles de Foucauld
About four months ago, I was sitting in a Pappadeaux restuarant with a pastor on staff at my church and she said to me, “Lauren, I would love for you to lead a small group study at St. Paul’s now that you have joined the church.” I was excited and also very honored. Of course I said yes! I love to see others engage with scripture, theology and the inner life of the Spirit, so this seemed like a great idea.
For the next month I prayed and thought about different ideas and options on what I could offer to our church community. The pastor and I discussed a couple of approaches that might be unique and intriguing. As the time drew near for me to solidify my plans, I remembered a book I had ordered by one of my favorite theologians, Henri Nouwen. It is a compilation of daily readings for the season of Lent. Eureka! Our group would use this book and explore together our lives for forty days.
Word of warning: be careful what you agree to and pray for in life.
My group at St. Paul’s is absolutely fabulous. They are some of the kindest people I have met in a long time, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time leading the group.
I speak a word of caution, however, because when you pray and ask God for transformation…well, be prepared for some intense days during Lent. I was especially struck by the prayer written by Charles de Foucauld above that was included during the first week of our readings. I wrote two things in my notations. First, wow what an amazing prayer! Second, can anyone really pray this prayer? “I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all.” I stopped right there. That day I could not say that prayer. If I am honest, I do not think I can pray it today either. I want to be able to say that prayer and mean it, but I know there is so much left in me to be crucified.
This man Charles de Foucauld was a French Catholic priest who had a conversion experience when he was twenty-eight years old after encountering deeply observant Muslims in Morocco. He returned to France and then later lived in the Saharan desert as a monk deeply devoted to Christ. I do not know when he was able to pray this prayer, but I hope that one day to surrender my will to God as Charles did in lands far away. He indeed lived out this prayer when he was martyred at the age of fifty-eight.
While I pray that I may be spared the tragic end of a martyr’s death, the season of Lent is the time when Christians remember the cycle of life, death and resurrection. Thus far, every day during my Lenten journey has been filled with profound lessons about letting go of long held expectations, forgiving others, embracing loss to welcome new life, and seeing the world through new eyes. As Lent continues, I will remember the words of Charles de Foucauld’s prayer as we look towards Easter.