I recently finished the most powerful and impactful book titled He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek S.J. It is the story of his spiritual journey and the faith which gave him the courage to survive the ordeal that wrenched his body and spirit to near collapse.
Not long after becoming a priest, he volunteered to go to Russia with another young priest to evangelize the gospel. WWII broke out and he was soon captured by the Russian army and convicted of being a Vatican spy. He spent 5 years in solitary confinement, enduring daily and often brutal interrogation, followed by many years in the labor camps of Siberia. He was a prisoner for a total of 23 years.
As a young priest, he knew he was called to go to Russia, and was so sure God was going to use him. It was devastating to spend 5 years in solitary confinement and feel so useless to God.
There are several reasons this book made such an impact on me.
Fr. Ciszek was a strong man, both physically and mentally. Although he leaned heavily on God throughout the ordeal, he still thought, on some level, that his own strength would help him endure the interrogations and the suffering. It wasn’t until he broke under interrogation, and confessed to something he didn’t do, and felt like he utterly failed God and the Church, that he came to the end of himself. It was only then that God could really start using him for the important work of spreading the Gospel.
This, I believe, is the hardest thing we have to do, and the most important on our journey to God and holiness. What I gleaned from his story is that we can’t even come to the end of ourselves without the grace of God.
I know I hang onto control. I want to give it up. I get frustrated with myself in this regard. But this book freed me, because I now see that I don’t have to worry about it. God knows I want Him, and He will get me to where He wants me to be. It doesn’t mean there will be no effort required on my part, but my effort will not be the thing that gets me there. It may take hardship, it probably will take hardship and suffering. My job is to remember to trust that God has a plan for me, a beautiful plan, and accept whatever comes my way.
The other important takeaway from this book was that I don’t need to fuss over what God wants of me, or what my mission is. Where I am this moment, this exact moment, is where God wants me today. The people He puts in front of me, the situations He puts me in, that is His plan for me. This is also so incredibly freeing.
I shared something with my friend and mentor Pat recently and wanted her to say that she experiences the same thing. She didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, but instead said “I have had my own lessons in humility, God knows what each of us needs.” Wow. I love that.
I love You Lord. I thank You for my life, this life, with it’s joys and challenges, and I trust that You have me in Your hands, that you have a beautiful plan for me, and that You will get me to where you want me to be. I give You my gifts, and also my weaknesses, especially my need to hang on to control, and I choose to trust You with all of it. Make me Yours, totally Yours. Amen.