What a Difference a Word Makes

“Consent” or “surrender-accept.”

“Consent to God’s presence and action within.”

Sometimes I hear something so often that I cease to actually hear what it says. Consent, surrender, and accept have all become familiar words during years of following a path to contemplation.

I’ve collected a number of spiritual practices (sounds like a spiritual junky).  I wanted to be prepared for whatever might happen. I knew the answers long before I faced the questions. A year ago my much-loved daughter, Leigh died. Practicing the Present Moment got me through her illness. Rolheiser’s Paschal paradigm was better than Kubler-Ross for the stages of grief. My affinity for Mary and our shared loss of an adult child was very comforting. I was not in this alone. Someone really did understand. During this time the words I used were more likely to be surrender or accept.

But, a year later, in just living my life without Leigh, my collection of spiritual practices was not helping much. I was faithful to my 20 minutes twice a day. But I think I had forgotten the “consent to God’s presence and action within” part. I was thinking more “surrender-accept.”

I read an article by Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and her comment “vocation of consent” jumped out at me. My love for Mary, the mother of Jesus, had included her words of consent: “let it be done to me according to Your word,” was almost a mantra for me. But consent was not what I was doing now. I was accepting. I was surrendering. But not consenting. Yet, I honestly believed that I, too, had a vocation of consent.

This led me to a lot of journaling. And a word study.

Surrender means “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” That’s not the attitude I want toward God. He is not my enemy or opponent. And yet, I believe I had been treating it that way.

Consent definition:  “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something, e.g., ‘no change may be made without the consent of all the partners.'”

Consent implies a much different relationship.  Consent is an agreement among two or more people ‚Äì a Higher Power.  It implies a trust that is not there in surrender. Surrender just means to stop fighting the inevitable. And I did that. But consent is something else. What is consent?? My first reaction:  did consent mean I gave my consent to Leigh’s illness and her death?? Was I complicit in that in some way? Did my consent cause God to take her? Age old questions that I may never have answers for.

What does it actually mean in the phrase “consent to God’s presence and action within” that is used so often in describing the Centering Prayer practice? God’s Presence and God’s action within me; I not only think I can give consent to that, but I desire it. Especially now. I want something positive to come from this loss, this pain. Can it actually be used for my good? Can it help conform me to God’s likeness?

We will see. At almost 80 years of age I’ve been asking for that for 40 years. Maybe this is the time.

Reva Freeman
Lamesa, Texas