In a scene from the movie Ferdinand (2017), we see a situation in which many of us can identify with the main character’s way of acting. In this particular scene we see how Ferdinand is very excited to once again attend the annual flower festival with his owner. However, the owner decides that Ferdinand cannot go. Ferdinand, who has a great appreciation for his owner and knows that what he says must be for a good reason, becomes sad and pensive as he muses over this situation. It is in this moment where we see that the main character experiences a strong interior struggle between obeying his master and doing his own will. To make a decision, he begins to search among the different normal events of life for signs that justify his attitude, to make it seem as though what he wants to do is what he should do. For example, we observe how he hopes that an orange will not fall off a particular tree, and that he will make the decision depending on the outcome of that event: if the orange does not fall, it must mean that he has to go to the festival. Paradoxically, the orange ends up falling to the ground. Ferdinand tries again: he argues that if a particular pebble does not move, it must mean that he has to go to the festival. But once more, against every prediction, a bird comes along and carries off the pebble. Finally, Ferdinand sees a hen’s egg and decides that if he counts to ten and the egg remains intact, then that must be the definite sign that he must go to the festival. He starts to count but realizes that the egg is beginning to crack, and so he counts even faster and skips several numbers so that he reaches ten without the egg breaking. Now Ferdinand has the perfect and definitive excuse and knows what to do: he’s going to the festival! …and one instant later the egg breaks.
This struggle, here shown in quite a comical way, is not too far from reality. Many times as Christians we experience a great difficulty in making important decisions. Why? Because we know that we should act in conformity with God’s will, but at the same time we feel a strong attraction towards doing something else, something which many times can also be a good thing, but which is not within God’s plan for us. As St. Paul said, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Romans 7:19).
Despite having good intentions and the desire to do what God wants – because we know that is the only important thing – we discover that we are attached to doing our own will, to a comfortable life, to our own mediocrity.
When these situations arise in prayer and in our discernment of the Lord’s will, we find ourselves searching for a hidden meaning in the normal things of everyday life that will show us that our own will is really God’s will. We try to find this double meaning in our daily occurrences, interpreting them as “signs from God” that justify the decision we make (that really is based on our own will), when in reality these occurrences are merely following the normal order of things.
It surprises me how complicated we can be sometimes in our spiritual life, always trying to have our own way. This prevents the Lord from working freely within us, because we are afraid of leaving our comfort zone, afraid of coming out of ourselves, afraid of giving our lives, even though we know that in giving our lives we will find life’s fullness. We try to find thousands of complex excuses instead of simply placing ourselves before the Lord, opening our heart fully to Him and saying: “Lord, let Your will truly reign in my life, and if it is possible let it even be contrary to my own desire so that once and for all I may break with my comfort zone and my mediocrity.”
Recently we had an encounter with Bishop José Ignacio Munilla in which he was asked a question about this very topic: Why, despite its desire to act in accord with God’s will, does the soul keep doing its own will in small everyday actions, as if by natural and almost uncontrollable impulse, and many times under the false appearance of doing God’s will? Munilla gave an answer which enlightened many of the young people present. He said it was a matter of attachments. We find our hearts are tied down by attachments – material attachments, attachments to certain persons or habits – that hinder us from acting with freedom and prevent our gift of self to the Lord from being true and total.
For this reason, Bishop Munilla invited us to discern before the Lord, in the light of the truth and invoking the Holy Spirit, what our own heart could be attached to. To do this, it is necessary to have the assistance of a spiritual guide, so that God’s will can have the ultimate victory in this battle and we can finally fall in surrender at His feet.
Let us pray for all young people who find themselves in this situation, so that we might let ourselves be formed by the Lord, stop living in the lie of our own comfort zone, and give ourselves entirely to fulfilling God’s will. May the Lord give us light to be able to recognize that which is tying down our hearts and the strength to do His will. In this way we will be able to advance on the path of faith and be better able to love Him and serve Him.
Article written by Beatriz Fra, HMY