In a letter to Jim Forest in February 21, 1965, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote:
Your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself , and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it. … The real hope, then is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand.
Merton’s words bring me peace in two ways: First, I can stop obsessing about what all I need to do to grow my online presence (get on Facebook, build a website, explore Digg.com, figure out what Twitter is and how I am supposed to tweet) and stop worrying about the right career moves and the steps I need to pursue to get there, because God has got this all under control. The right thing will come along at the right time as it always has in the past. The best opportunities that have happened to me in my work have required almost no effort on my own. They have been gifts from God. I’m absolutely convinced of that. All I need to do is to get out of the way, so that God can use me.
Second, I need not waste time regretting my mistakes and failures of the past, because God can make good out of these as well.
Furthermore, I know that true peace and happiness doesn’t come with professional success or fame or power. If that were the case, why would so many celebrities look so bad? Why would a large percentage of them be hooked on crack? Nope. It’s the ones who have managed to hear God and feed their egos weed killer that walk around like the Dalai Lama, an aura of peace surrounding them.
Another spiritual master, Henri Nouwen, wrote:
Somewhere deep in our hearts we already know that success, fame, influence, power, and money do not give us the inner joy and peace we crave. Somewhere we can even sense a certain envy of those who have shed all false ambitions and found a deeper fulfillment in their relationship with God. Yes, somewhere we can even get a taste of that mysterious joy in the smile of those who have nothing to lose.
Nothing to lose. That’s the attitude I’m after. That’s how to get out of the way and let yourself be used for love. Basically, to pray the words of the Third Step Prayer (of the traditional 12 steps):
God, I offer myself to Thee. To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy Will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!
Or, if you want to stick with Jesus’ words, the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew is also about this lesson of getting out of the way. The master entrusts each of his servants a number of talents, each according to his ability, and they all come back with even more, all but the one who just received one talent, because he buried it in the ground.
Regarding that parable, St. Louis de Montfort, a French missionary of the 18th century, explained:
The grace and help of God are absolutely necessary for us to practice sincere humility, unceasing prayer, complete self-denial … but we are sure that grace will be given to all, though not in the same measure. I say “not in the same measure,” because God does not give his graces in equal measure to everyone, although in his infinite goodness he always gives sufficient grace to each. A person who corresponds to great graces performs great works, and one who corresponds to lesser graces performs lesser works. The value and high standard of our actions corresponds to the value and perfection of the grace given by God and responded to by the faithful soul.