A long-time friend Eileen Flanagan is a Quaker, an author and an environmental activist. She was preparing this week for a pivotal meeting with the Philadelphia power company (PECO) to convince the utility to purchase solar power from rooftops as a way to reduce reliance on coal and to create new jobs. Eileen reached out to her Facebook friends for spiritual and emotional support prior to the meeting.
I thought and prayed a bit before I responded, and then I suggested that she should surrender. Well, not quite that directly. My actual response went something like: “This isn’t about anything you do or say. Detach from the outcome and trust your inner teacher.” What I was trying to convey is this: If you are truly doing the work of God, then you must surrender to his will and be content with the outcome regardless of the level of success your actions may bring.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work as hard as possible; that we shouldn’t practice our due diligence and prepare; that we shouldn’t plan and strategize. The struggle is real, but at some point we need to let go and get our egos out of the way. Our fear of failure is nothing less than our lack of faith.
Perhaps we do have faith in God but it is faith in ourselves that is lacking. We may fear that we are an inadequate vessel for the work we are called to do. Or more likely, we are unsure if the call we hear is our own ego or the gentle whisper of God.
If we truly want to follow the call of God, we need to let go; to listen deeply and to allow God to work through us. I know, this is much easier said than done and that some spend a lifetime trying to achieve that goal. Richard Rohr advises that we are never separate from God; that the separation is an illusion and we need only awaken to that of God within each of us. And, once you acknowledge the call of God from deep within your soul – then you also awaken to the reality that the call is a call to act. It is not enough to know the call of God; we must become the agents of God here on earth. God calls us not only to himself alone, but also to the service of each other. And that’s where the value of leadership begins. We must surrender and become servants in order to hear the call of God, but we must be leaders to act on that call. We must be humble and acknowledge that our success is not ours, that it is God working through us. But then – we must lead fearlessly. We must walk forward with a resolute understanding that it is not a miracle from God that will bring about peace, justice and the Kingdom of God – it is our actions – working on behalf of God.
That is not to say that everything will work out all the time, or even most of the time. After all, we are engaged in a human struggle where the thoughts and actions of others will determine the result. Others need to also be willing to do the work of God. And, often times they don’t. They don’t hear, they don’t believe, or they are afraid to act. Their response is ultimately not our concern. Our focus is on our response to the call of God. And that is what I was trying to say to my friend Eileen. If you have done everything you can possibly do, then the only thing left is to surrender and through surrender we can become fearless in our action.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.