The Impossibility of Abandoning the Self

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Saint Ignatius said, “There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.” I reflect on these words while sitting on a train next to my son. We are taking a quick trip, and the train gives me some quiet time. Eric Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” pops in my headphones. My son scribbles equations in a homework notebook. 
What would God make of us if we abandoned ourselves to God? I cannot answer this question for anyone but myself. For example, my son proves his sentient-status with each original sentence he utters. I cannot answer the question for him. I felt comfortable speaking for him when he was a child, but those days are gone. So, the question becomes ‘what would God make of me if I abandoned myself to God?’ 
The problem with abandoning the self is in abandonment we lose ourselves. If I am wholly God’s, then I am no longer my own. Maybe that is Ignatius’ point. Left to our own devices, we repeat the fall over and over again. Perhaps we should abandon the self, no longer be unique, and surrender to God. 
Somehow this does not seem to be what God wants either. Just like my son’s self-realization is interesting to me, the choices I make can be interesting to God. My self does not have to be sinful. I do not have to repeat the fall. I can make good choices. 
Does this mean I have no need for God? No. The second part of Ignatius’ quote is apropos. He says, “Let themselves be formed by his grace.” We can be ourselves yet allow God to form us. We can be especially formed by God’s grace. Knowing forgiveness and forgiving others creates distance between us and the fall. The fall is retributive. Grace is overcoming wrongdoing with positive action. 
To have a positive action, we must have freedom. If we are not free, we create nothing. We simply play out God’s divine script. Our actions do not count so much as fulfill God’s plan. Yet, we are free. We can make choices. We can recognize the potential God has placed in each us. 
Does this make us gods? No. We remain God’s servants. We can choose to abandon the sinful side of our being. This choice only has meaning when our abandonment is limited to sinfulness and we abandon to something—to God. Turning to God is a continual choice, made over and over again. Instead of repeating the fall, we choose God. When we do, we take a step toward experiencing our potential and truly knowing God’s grace. 

2 Replies to “The Impossibility of Abandoning the Self”

  1. “The choices I make can be interesting to God.” Genesis 2:19 confirms this.I wonder how Jesus' words in Matthew 10:39 inform your premise here. He says, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

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