Summary of Into Your Hands, Father by Wilfrid Stinissen

Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us by Wilfrid Stinissen, Ignatius Press, 2011.

Quick Summary of the Book:

Based on the life of Christ (see Hebrews 10:7, Luke 23:46), Stinissen puts forward surrender as the central and unifying idea for the spiritual life. Surrender is “something so basic and comprehensive that it encompasses everything else” (9). In the words of St. Therese of Lisieux:

“Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to this Divine Furnace, and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father’s arms.”

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1st stage in surrender: Accepting God’s will.

 The 1st stage of surrender involves recognizing God’s will in literally everything that happens in our lives and then accepting everything as a part of His loving plan for our lives.

“Just as God’s Providence is so all-encompassing that nothing falls outside of it and that even sin finds its proper place in it, so also, our surrender ought to be so perfect that even our worry, our troubles, and our temptations are enclosed in it and fall into place in it” (32).

Our Past

We must accept our entire past and believe that God was there in everything that happened and will bring a greater good out of it than if it never happened.

“A healthy memory does not mean that one forgets the difficult things of the past and remembers only happy events. No, a memory becomes healthy to the extent that it increasingly coincides with God’s memory. We begin to see with his eyes and remember his work. We see that we are “the work of his hands.” Our memory becomes healthy to the extent that we surrender our past to God and know that it is more his past than ours” (44).

Although it is important on the theological level to make a distinction between what God wills and what He merely permits, when it comes to the practical level, with unavoidable events and our reaction to them, we must believe that God is so good that everything He permits will in some way become good for us (or else we can fall into a subtle form of escapism & rebel against any evils).

“Nothing happens that the Almighty does not will should happen, either by permitting it or by himself doing it” (St. Augustine).

Advice about your past: Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your past and lead you to those incidents that you have still not accepted wholeheartedly. He will place everything in a larger context – to see the whole of reality and not just a small fragment – and reveal that the Father was present and that Jesus has already suffered everything – everything that wounds you has wounded Him first. Show Him your past. Expose yourself to His healing power. Give Him the opportunity to heal you – especially during Holy Communion (say but the word and I shall be healed).

Our Present

We need a faith that recognizes God’s presence within us, in every event in our lives, and in every person we meet (they are God’s artisans in our lives).

“There can be so much escapism in our striving for a “spiritual life”. We often flee from the concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with God’s presence to an artificial existence that corresponds with our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. As long as we want to decide for ourselves where we will find God, we need not fear that we shall meet him! We will meet only ourselves, a touched-up version of ourselves. Genuine spirituality begins when we prepare to die. Could there be a quicker way to die than to let God form our lives from moment to moment and continually to consent to his action?” (24)

Since God is “the great director guiding the drama of the world and mankind… I can encounter Him everywhere. He pours out His love upon me in and through all that happens… God is active love, and all that occurs and is done by human beings is integrated into his all-encompassing activity” (18-19, 22).

“How can you know that you are living in God’s will? This is the sign: If you are troubled about anything, that means you are not completely abandoned to God’s will. The one who lives according to God’s will is not troubled about anything. If he needs something, he surrenders it and even himself to the Lord. He places it in his hands. If he does not get what he needs, he remains calm, as though he had received it. He is not afraid, whatever happens, for he knows that it is God’s will. When he is afflicted with illness, he thinks: I need this sickness, otherwise God would not have sent it. He thus preserves peace in body and soul.” – Starets Silvan, 21.

Advice about your present:

  1. Don’t complain. Only God knows exactly what we really need. “When we complain, we usually do it because of our imaginary needs” (34).
  2. Ask yourself what you are troubled about. Surrender that trouble to the Lord continually.
Our Inner Poverty

We must also have a faith that believes that God is using and transforming our inner poverty.

“In itself, manure is repulsive and pollutes the air. However, the same horse bears it with much toil to the fields, where it produces a precious harvest of fine wheat or excellent wine, a harvest that would not have been so good if it had not received any fertilizer. Your own faults, which for the time being you have not mastered and which you will never succeed in overcoming, are your manure. Give yourself to carrying them diligently to the field of God’s good pleasure in true surrender. Spread your fertilizer over the good earth, and without the slightest doubt, precious and sweet fruits will grow from it with humble surrender” (John Tauler, pg. 31-32).

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2nd stage in surrender: Doing God’s will.

The 2nd stage of surrender involves actively doing God’s will at every moment of life, to participate in that indescribable Yes that the Divine Persons say to one another in and through Christ.

“Without a Yes to God, nothing can mature in a person’s life. If one’s life is barren, the reason behind it is always the frequent repetition of the word No” (47).

God speaks to us from without and within.

When God speaks to us from without (Bible, Church – especially since She is Mater et Magistra, circumstances, and our obvious daily duties), we must give that priority.

When God speaks to us from within (inner attractions, instincts, intuitions), we must have an attitude of unconditional readiness, a complete openness, a will to say Yes, a detachment in which we choose, not a thing, but, rather, God’s will.

“Since God is a “God of peace” (1 Cor 14:33), His will leads, as a rule, to a deeper peace. Our egoism leads, on the other hand, to disappointment and emptiness. If we feel a deeper peace after responding to an inner prompting, we can believe that we have said Yes to God. We often know beforehand if a certain action will bring us peace or unrest. We begin to develop an ability to discern, which makes it all the easier to recognize God” (54).

Advice: Ask yourself: Will saying “Yes” to this inner prompting bring a deeper peace? 

Living in the Present Moment

Just as Christ’s Body is wholly present in the small Host, so Christ’s will is wholly present in the little, ordinary work He gives me to do right now.

“The more consciously I live and the more concentrated I am in the moment, the more I am one with God’s will. It is in the very smallest things that I meet the very greatest… If only we could understand that we can only realize our dream by being totally present to the little and insignificant things we have to do at each moment” (61).

The present moment is God’s ambassador, the only moment that mediates God’s will. In order to truly live in the present, we must surrender both our past and our future to God.

“We often live in the past and the future at the same time, which gives us a feeling of inner division and is perhaps the main cause of our weariness. We have not surrendered our past with its guilt and painful wounds. We carry it with us like a heavy burden. Nor do we dare to surrender our future to God. We are afraid that he will take advantage of our trust” (62).

Advice: Never do two things at once, always do one thing after the other. Do not concern yourself with practices and works, but rather keep your whole attention turned toward God’s will. In this sense, the one who obeys God always does the same thing.

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3rd stage in surrender

The 3rd stage of surrender is completely different from the first two stages and “presupposes that we have practiced accepting and obeying God’s will for a long time… In the third stage, we surrender ourselves and our faculties so completely to God that he is able to use them as he wills” (77). Now it is no longer I who do God’s will, but God who accomplishes his will through me.

“For a long time, I have no longer belonged to myself, I am totally surrendered to Jesus, so He is free to do with me as He will” (St. Therese of Lisieux).

True love demands total surrender

“Can one love without surrendering oneself? True love inevitably leads to total surrender. “To love is to give everything and to give oneself,” writes St. Therese of Lisieux, in her poem about Mary. That is why surrender is not optional. It is as binding as love. “Love the Lord your God with all your strength” means: “Surrender yourself totally.” Those who do not want the latter do not want the former” (82).images.jpeg

Total surrender leads to perfect union

“God says that when a man gives himself to his wife, they become one flesh (Gen 2:24). He presupposes that the wife also gives herself to her husband, but this mutuality is not a given in human love. It is a given, however, when it comes to a relationship with God. Surrender is total on his part. He is “body given” and “blood outpoured.” He waits only for us to give ourselves. If we do so, union becomes a fact” (82-83).

Total surrender and the Eucharist

“He comes to us offered and completely surrendered to us in the Eucharist, in order to call forth the same surrender in us. If we do not receive the Eucharist with at least a desire for complete surrender, the whole thing becomes a lie. We hinder God when we do not want to respond to his total surrender with our total surrender” (83).

Total surrender and love

“Surrender is an essential element in love, and when it comes to love we can never exaggerate, just the opposite. We are always indebted in love… to surrender oneself to God, who is self-giving love and pure commitment, cannot be lead to greater eagerness and a renewed and committed love” (96).

Advice:

  1. Pray the “Suscipe” Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola daily: 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.
  2. “Although it is important not to practice this total dependency too soon… it is just as important, when the time is ripe, to dare to let go and surrender the helm to God” (79).
  3. Are you stressed? “A great help in preserving and increasing this inner peace is striving to work in a calm, relaxed, and self-controlled way. Stress is often a sign of an all too obtrusive presence of one’s own ego. God is never a stress factor” (100).
  4. Prayer is a privileged opportunity to practice the fundamental attitude of total surrender. Let God pray in you. The only thing you do is remain in God’s light.

 

 

Comments

  1. Wow, what powerful insights. I guess it has been too long since I read the Story of a Soul, or I just missed it when I read it. Thanks for the summary.

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