Written by Mitchell Han
Illustrations by Isabelle Fuentes
The catalyst for my journey from being self-led to God-led occurred during a preaching. A priest exhorted, “If Jesus Christ is truly God, then give everything to Him. He is the center of the universe and history. The one who holds all things together. Trust Him.” It was the first time I had ever heard those words spoken so clearly and distinctly. At that exact moment, those words felt more real than anything else I had ever heard or read.
Over the next two days, I began wrestling with God. I had many plans and ambitions. Indeed, it was a “story” that I told myself. I wanted to get a degree in a set time. I wanted to accrue a certain net worth by a set time. I wanted to be married and have a family, and so on. God was asking me to surrender it all to Him. To give control back to Him. This caused me to struggle. But, in the end, I said, “take it all Lord” and commended my life to Him.
It was scary. Being raised as a typical Singaporean, it felt weird to not have a “plan”. And when relatives or strangers asked about my plans for the future, I would answer with, “I don’t know”, leaving me looking irresponsible or reckless.
Yet, I have found that in surrendering and being God-led, there has come a freedom and joy that I have never experienced before. While my schoolmates are chasing internships or grades to gain a career or financial security, I have found myself increasingly indifferent to such things. I used to be extremely sensitive about my grades and accomplishments. But, as I grow more as an intentional disciple, I have begun to care less and less about achievements.
Before, the internal script in my mind went something like: “I have to do X”, “I must achieve Y”. But upon encountering Christ, I realized that I didn’t need to delay happiness or have elaborate plans and jump through many hoops to get something that would fail to fully satisfy me. Instead, I realized that my happiness comes from God and God alone. Increasingly, my internal script has shifted to, “I am free to do this”, and, “God calls me to do this”. Being freed from making sure that I outdo others means that I now have the capacity to reach out to new members of my community, spend time with friends and family and spend time with God. Being free from needing to prove myself to others and secure my social position or financial security, I am now free to follow the Lord wherever He leads me.
In the past, my sense of control in my life came from having a stable social position, solid grades, and financial security. Surrendering these things to God was hard. Yet, what has come out of this is so much better! In place of fame or status, my security now comes from the Lord. I feel this remarkable sense of security in God and know that no matter what happens in life, He is my sure foundation and rock. I need only do His will.
In this season of my life, I am discerning and taking a break from all Church ministries for a year. One of my fears was that I would become a “nobody” and that not being involved in ministry, would mean that I would not matter to others anymore. Yet, the Lord revealed to me that this concern and fear arose from issues of self-love and were not from Him. It stemmed from a false desire for status and would not lead me to true happiness in Him. Instead, He invited me to trust in Him and His plans for me, and just take one step at a time.
In this journey of becoming more and more God-led, some practices have helped me in my journey of surrender:
Discern the Reason for Each Action and Decision
So often, we go about life without much thought given to why we do what we do. In the noise of being busy, we don’t stop to think, “why am I doing this?” However, once we unpack the motivations behind our actions, we come to realise that most of the time, we do things for ourselves and not for God. “I am doing this assignment to get recognised” “I am working so that I can get promoted” and “I am in ministry so that others will love me”.
Commonly, our actions are motivated by, as St. Thomas Aquinas highlighted, the four horsemen: wealth, power, fame, and pleasure. These are four common substitutes for God. The sooner we realise that our intentions behind most of our actions are to gain these four things as opposed to being motivated by the love of God and love of neighbour, we are likely to be self-led, not God-led.
Testing Our Actions and Decisions in Light of Scripture
A lot of our worries come from society and masquerade as “good” and “sound” advice. If we don’t stop and discern, worldly advice honestly does sound pretty sensible. Yet, frequently secular wisdom does not hold up in the light of Scripture. Unless we know the Word of God, how can we possibly know God’s heart and His will for our lives?
In addition to that, sound reading of Scripture is always accompanied by a sound understanding of the traditions and doctrines of the Catholic Church. Testing our intuition in light of Scripture and tradition helps us to arrive at better God-led decisions.
Often, it is not the head that needs convincing to follow God, but the heart. We don’t know Jesus enough and so we don’t trust Him and are unable to follow Him freely. It is through the sacraments that we receive the most tangible and concrete reminders that God’s love is the most secure and that we can trust and rely on Him to lead the way.
There’s so much more I could say but I hope this catalyses your own journey from being self-led to God-led. May God continue to lead you in your pilgrim journey here on earth into His Kingdom!