“To God who reveals himself one must give the obedience of faith by which man freely commits himself as a whole to God.” (Dei Verbum, 5)
As one of the prominent documents of the Second Vatican Council, this quote from Dei Verbum encapsulates a critical moment of a Christian's life. The moment in which one freely commits him/herself as a whole to God through faith.
Karol Wojtyla, now known as St. Pope John Paul II, reflects on this quote from Dei Verbum in his book, "Sources of Renewal: The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council," saying:
“Essential to faith is an attitude of self-commitment to God…the attitude of self-gift is the most vital and vivifying point relating to the whole process of the enrichment of faith. By giving himself as a whole to the self-revealing God in the obedience of faith, the believer grasps his own identity as a person who has come to share in the Person of the Son in relation to the Father by the gift of the Spirit.” (206)
The most vital and vivifying point of the enrichment of our faith is our self-gift to God. That's pretty important. And it's not just the highlight reel of our faith life, it's a daily gift of self to God that enriches our faith.
As a ministry consultant traveling to visit parishes across the country, I have the privilege of meeting, speaking, and praying with a multitude of lay faithful. It's the greatest part of my job!
In talking with men and women about their faith, I find that this concept of self-gift is either troubling or foreign. We spend much of our time trying to grasp God's love and receive it fully in our lives through the sacraments, prayer, Scripture, and community. We are comfortable acknowledging the bounty of blessings he bestows on us honoring the beauty, glory, and unconditional love of God.
However, if we are to be in relationship with him, we must, as St. John Paul II writes, cultivate an attitude of self-gift to God. We must offer the entirety of ourselves to God as a gift, which presupposes that we believe who we are in our entirety is a gift.
Do you believe your past, present, and future, body, mind, and soul, are a gift to God?
Furthermore, your self-gift is the deepest expression of love to God you can offer.
You are a gift to God. Your identity, rooted in Christ himself, formed with intention and crafted with precision. It's pretty language, and for many of us, we have heard it a number of times. So go ahead and roll your eyes and utter the words "I know, I know." Now it's time to wake up to the reality of this truth today. It may be different today than it was yesterday for you, because every day is new and our enemy is always looking for an edge.
I've heard it thousands of times, and I've probably said it twice as many times. But today, I feel like about 85% of me could be a gift to God. The other 15% percent feels like a burden. The part of me that feels frustrated with his timing, lacks trust, and is hurling sarcastic digs at him doesn't feel like a gift. I'm perpetually exhausted doing what I love, but feeling a lack of self-care, and trying to figure out how to survive a dark and stormy winter.
Yet, as I write these words, my heart trembles by the relentless heart of Christ who says, "Yes, I want that too. The 85% is great, but the 15% is the gift I've been waiting for, asking for... Will you please give it to me?"
When we give him the 15% (insert your number here), we are saying,
"I love you, too."
And it's only then that my identity in Christ is strengthened as I grasp the fuller meaning of relationship with Jesus. There's no holding back. The Holy Trinity only exists in complete submission to the other persons - fully, fruitfully, and faithfully.
The part that gets me every time is that when I unload my 15%, I end up falling deeper and deeper in love with God. I hear his voice with greater clarity in my prayer, and while the things of this world that fill up my 15% don't change, my attitude and perspective do. As I grow in relationship with the Trinity, through an act of faith in my self-gift, I learn how to love with less fear and greater abandon.
When was the last time you completely submitted yourself to God?
Ideally, it would be daily. But the beautiful thing is, God isn't in the game of shaming. He simply wants you, the whole package, today and every day.
And for now, he will take whatever your gift is. It could be joy, confusion, praise, questions, anger, sadness, love, repentance, time, grief, anticipation, or some concoction of all of the above.
Who you are is a gift. It's your expression of love to your perfect lover.
What is your self-gift to God today?
Photo by Kelly Olson - dillonandkelly.com | Instagram: @dillonandkelly @kellyolson_