Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.
St Ignatius of Loyola
This past year I participated in a nine month Ignatian retreat called the Spiritual Exercises for Everyday Living (SEEL). This retreat is an adaptation of the 30 day retreat embarked upon by Jesuit monks as a means of growing in their awareness of the gracious presence of God. From September through May, on one Saturday a month, I spent the morning at the St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill in Seattle and in between these meetings met twice with a spiritual director. Through these meetings I was invited into a process of learning about prayer and discernment as we worked through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The prayer above, which is referred to as the Suscipe (the Latin word for take or receive), is one of the final prayers in the Spiritual Exercises. When we arrived at this final stage of the exercises in May and prayed this prayer, it was clear to me why it was the final and not the first prayer in the exercises. It’s not something that is possible for us to pray if we have no experience of the love and grace of God.
The faith journey can’t begin with the prayer “take all that I have and call my own.” No one is ready to pray that prayer when we first hear Jesus’ invitation: “Follow me.” We have to grow into this prayer. In order to pray this prayer we need to trust that we have nothing to lose and this kind of trust is something that develops over time. It comes from experience. It grows as we realize that the embrace of God is steadfast. It develops as we learn that God is not the kind of parent who teaches us to swim by throwing us into the pool without any prior experience of being in water over our heads. Faithfulness and trust are not born in a moment when we decide once and for all time that we are going to swim rather than sink. They develop and deepen as we gradually learn and re-learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God. They are born of that ongoing process of deepening our awareness that the love of God truly is, ENOUGH!
I suppose it is possible to read the call of the prophets, apostles and disciples of the Scriptures as a sudden adoption of radical faith and dedication of one’s life to God. Isaiah experiences the overwhelming presence of God and says, “Here I am, send me!” Peter, the fisherman, encounters Jesus and leaves his nets behind in order to follow Jesus. Saul gets knocked to the ground by an encounter with the resurrected Christ and gets up with a resolve to renounce his former ways of trying to wipe out the followers of Jesus.
But if we follow the life stories of these saints who dropped everything and followed Jesus, what becomes clear is that initial decision was just the beginning of a process. It was the first “Yes” to Jesus that started a journey on which they each had to flirt with the possibility of saying “No.” They each had to grow in trust. They each had to gradually grow into the experience of knowing that the love of God is indeed, enough.
I know of no special formula or practice that can suddenly deliver us into a place of absolute trust in God. It’s not like we can pay for the app, download it to our souls and voila! all manner of things are suddenly well. As with any relationship, this trust in God develops over time. It grows with experience that is peppered with episodes of courage and fear, confidence and doubt, hope and despair. Yet within each of these chapters in our story one invitation persists. God keeps showing us that his grace is sufficient. One more layer of confidence is deposited with each experience of grace and we are gradually empowered to pray: “Take, Lord, and receive all I have and call my own [and] give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.”
Dave Rohrer, 8/18/19