A couple of my favorite sayings come from Mary, the mother of God, from the book “The City of God” by Mary of Jesus of Agreda and from one that I attribute to Joseph Prince, a television evangelist. The one from Mary says, “Be taught by faith, but governed by inspiration” and the one from Joseph Prince says, “Let me step into your (God’s) abundant supply and ride the wave of your (God’s) anointing.” I often use these reflections in prayer to allow my mind to be lifted from the mundane to the celestial.
Recently I was reflecting on what I intend to do with my time when I start my retirement from teaching in June, so I thought I would do some goal setting to help me accomplish my intentions. I wrote these goals in my journal and have visited them several times since then, revising them as needed. I have always been a proponent of goal setting because it seems clear to me that once a realistic goal has been set, our conscious and unconscious decisions help us to strive to reach these goals. I have often taught my students the value of goal setting, especially for those students that had the opportunity to participate in skills competitions in carpentry, plumbing, brick and block masonry and various leadership contests. Many of these students were very successful and I attribute some of that success to setting realistic goals. And I’m sure many of you have seen examples or are examples of success partly due to goal setting.
I have been recently re-reading “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis and have reviewed or rethought the idea of putting on the mind of Christ, and the passages that say “I have come to give you a more abundant life,” and “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Or several other examples where Jesus has said we should be transformed into a son of God. We don’t do that for ourselves and as a matter of fact there is nothing we can do to merit such a transformation. It is only available to us if we say yes to God’s love and accept Jesus as our savior and Lord. He does the transforming when we totally surrender our will to Him.
If this is the case, which I believe it is, why would it be necessary for us to set goals when we have supposedly given away everything to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loves us more than we can love ourselves? When we submit our will to Him, He doesn’t just make some improvements, He transforms us 100% into sons and daughters of God. He finishes the transformation either in this life or the one to come, so that we can stand pure before our God the Father.
However, it’s one thing to say we submit our will to God and another, for it to be a reality in our lives. As a matter of fact, for me and many of us Christians the most difficult part of becoming Holy is to let go of our egoism and submit our will to God, even though we desire to do so. It is something that we have to work at every day, if not every moment to moment. Sometimes I think it would be great if God would in one swift blow, make that happen in our lives so we wouldn’t have to struggle with it so much. But again, we have to realize that is not what God has in mind for us. With His grace, He wants us to overcome ourselves, to struggle, to fall, to ask for forgiveness, to start again and persevere. It takes discipline and in my opinion, more discipline than any other successful activity. And even then, if we have developed a disciplined life, it’s because of His grace and it is God who transforms us, not we who transform ourselves. We have to remember the words of the priest on Ash Wednesday when he traces the sign of the cross on our foreheads, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Dust does not have transforming power.
Another analogy that Lewis uses to explain the process of becoming sons and daughters of God is pretense. Just like children, when in their play, they pretend they will be firemen, doctors, carpenters, priests, etc. when they grow up, we Christians hope to become what God is calling us to be and we pretend by our thoughts and actions to be sons of God. For example when we pray to God, we use the words Jesus taught us, “Our Father….” But more importantly, God Himself pretends that we are His sons long before we are, in fact, holy because of the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The perfect love sees Jesus, not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our brother, which makes us co-heir with Jesus as His adopted sons. When we understand our right relationship with God, it’s easy to reflect on,”Let me step into your abundant supply and ride the wave of your anointing.” It’s a powerful meditation.
So we recognize that we are called to be sons of God, God pretends we are, we pretend we are, and In our nothingness God transforms us overtime to be such, if we strive to submit our will to Him. I’m in, how about you?
Now how do we respond to the issue of goal setting? Even though in the end, God has our back, so to speak, He is expecting our best. Jesus was a man of action and the saints that have followed His way are likewise men of action. Our spiritual heroes didn’t become saints by sitting around and just praying, although I’m sure they did that as well. No, their lives reflected their commitment to God and their service to His people; building hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc. I don’t know any saints personally, but I have read biographies of more than a few and I bet that goal setting wrapped in prayer was a mainstay in their spirituality. I think we can look at goal setting as part of God’s plan for us to be better versions of ourselves, an inspiration. The discipline required of us to reach our goals can be a tool to help us further the larger discipline of living a life of faith. So the obvious answer for me is that saints and want to be saints set goals to live an extraordinary life and can be one response to Mary’s plea to “Be taught by faith and governed by inspiration.”