Joan Chittister: ‘We Have A Spiritual Obligation to Accept Reality’


“Surrender is what cleans off the barnacles that have been clinging to the soul. It is the final act of human openness. Without it I am doomed to live inside a stagnant world called the self. The problem is that the self is a product of my own making. I myself shape the self. I construct it one experience, one attitude, one effort at a time till the person I become — rich in reality or starved for it — is finished. I shape me, great or small, wizened or insulated, out of the tiny little measures of newness that I allow to penetrate the depths of my darkness one dollop at a time. What I do not let into my world can never stretch my world, can never give it new color, can never fill it with a new kind of air, can never touch the parts of me that I never knew were there. What I once imagined must forever be, what I relived in memory for years, is no more. Openness saves me from the boundaries of the self and surrender to the moment is the essence of openness.

Surrender does not simply mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that is totally elsewhere. I surrender to meanings I never cared to hear — or heard, maybe, but was not willing to understand. Try as I might to read more into someone’s words than they ever really meant, I must surrender to the final truths: She did not love me. They did not want me. What I want is not possible.

And, hardest to bear of all, all arguments to the contrary are useless. I surrender to the fact that what I lived for without thought of leaving, I have now lost. Try as I might to turn back the clock, to relive a period of my life with old friends, in long-gone places, out of common memories, through old understandings and theologies of the past, I come to admit that such attempts are the myth of a mind in search of safer days. The way we were is over. They are in fact, laughable to many, resented by some, essentially different in intimation to each of us.

Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguishes who I was from who I have become. Life as I had fantasized is over. What is left is the spiritual obligation to accept reality so that the spiritual life can really happen to me.–Joan Chittister, OSB

An excerpt from Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)

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