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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Learning to Let Go

March 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Ariel McKinney, God's Will, Prayer

11300003I am a list-maker, an excessive post-it user, an organizational app connoisseur. I love the stability that organization provides. It's really the only way I can keep track of all of my commitments. This aspect of my personality, although wonderful for an ordered, balanced secular life, creates little stumbling blocks for me in my spiritual life. Learning to “let go and let God” is a constant struggle for me, since I love to plan and prepare for things ahead of time. Uncertainty might be exciting for some people, but for me, it's like staring into a dark abyss, full of terrifying, unorganized chaos; truly a nightmare to think about. This is what, for me, makes the future such a tremendously frightening thing–it's hard not knowing what will happen, or what God has planned for me.

I thought I had my life planned out when I began my undergraduate studies. I had excelled in biology in high school and knew that the medical field would provide the perfect little niche for me. I was anxious to begin a pre-med program, and excited to become a neurologist one day. As a child who suffered from adolescent epilepsy, I was sure that my neurological disorder was a sign that I should pursue the medical field and help other children who suffer the same condition.

However, my first year as an undergraduate biology major was rough, to say the least. I struggled to find the passion to fuel my studies. I found more solace in my theology studies and my one-credit choir class and weekly voice lessons than in the lab. Winter break brought much-needed distance from my school work for a while; it gave me time to think about my future. Clearly, biology was turning out to be more of a painful burden than a joy. I was always gifted in music, but had never seriously considered pursuing it as a career. Spring semester came and went, and by the start of summer I knew that music was meant to be my major. Little did I know that music would eventually become my life, something absolutely necessary for my personal and spiritual fulfillment.

Looking back on things, I realize that instead of trusting in God and asking what he wanted of me, I continued wallowing in my own misery. It wasn't until my family intervened that I realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I was too spiritually immature, at that point, I believe, to turn to God and ask him for guidance. I clung to my sticky notes and my productivity apps, my elaborate plans and goals which I had meticulously constructed for my future.

Years have passed since then, and I can now joyfully say that I am weeks away from earning a degree in music and theology, and confident in God's plan for me! I have learned to trust God more, despite my obsession with organization and planning. Trials and uncertainty have continued to assail me, but each time they have, I have only grown stronger in my trust in God.

If you had asked me three months ago what I was doing after I graduated, I would have told you confidently that I would be in graduate school, studying vocal performance and performing dramatic opera roles. But of course, as soon as I began planning out my future, a most difficult spiritual trial arose. I found my heart absolutely crushed after getting rejected by every school that I applied to, and I struggled to keep my heart away from despairing thoughts; I felt undervalued and embarrassed, unwanted and insufficient. To my surprise, though each university indicated an interest in my talent, they also revealed that my music program did not have sufficient rigor to prepare me for their programs. So, back to the drawing board. The good news is that there is still a way in but God had to provide it and He has.

In my hurt, I turned to God, asking him to show me the way. The facade of pride and success I had built around my heart had been torn down in an instant; God broke down that wall of security, humbling me to my breaking point. Although I didn't make it into graduate school this coming year like I had planned, I am at peace knowing that God is in control of my future and that he must have something greater waiting for me. This gift of humility has opened my eyes to my lack of trust in God and my failure to recognize that the gifts I was born with are not my own, but his.

My newfound trust in God has brought about joyous fruits since then: although graduate school didn't work out, I was accepted (only 40 students are selected nationwide each year based on their vocal potential) into a prestigious summer program in Austria through the University of Miami School of Music. I will stay in Salzburg for five weeks, studying German, voice, opera, art and music history. This is such a dream come true for me! I “let go and let God” take charge of my future; and in doing so, I think I was rewarded with an even greater opportunity than I could have ever imagined.

With all this said, I think it comes to no surprise that my favorite bible passage happens to be from the book of Matthew, chapter 6, when Christ speaks about how much God provides for the smallest of birds, and consequently, man's necessity to trust that God will provide even more to those with open hearts:

“I say to you, then, do not fret over your life, how to support it with food and drink; over your body, how to keep it clothed. Is not life itself a greater gift than food, the body than clothing? See how the birds of the air never sow, or reap, or gather grain into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them; have you not an excellence beyond theirs?” Matthew 6:25-26

If God diligently and relentlessly provides for the littlest sparrows, how much more will he provide for us if we turn to him in trust? Do we have a childlike heart that trusts in our Father, who wants nothing but the best for us? Do we truly believe that he will take care of us? Is our relationship with him a passionate love affair that cannot be extinguished, no matter the trials we face? Wonderful fruits are lavished upon us when we abandon ourselves to God's will–when we lose ourselves in his love.

May you bear your own crosses with love, patience and trust in the Lord, and with the knowledge that if God closes one door, he is sure to present you with an even greater opportunity through another. You do not walk alone in your journey home to heaven, but rather in the warm company of those around you, and most importantly, with God, nudging you in the right direction every step of the way.

To conclude I need to tell you that I really need your help. My parents have given their lives to non-profit work for the Church and thus don't have the funds necessary for this program. Please consider a donation to help me pursue God's call in my life. My website where you can donate can be found by clicking here or going to this URL: http://www.gofundme.com/6ukm2s It will not be possible for me to make this happen without your generosity. Any and all help is appreciated–no amount is too little. God bless you for your kindness! 

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About Ariel McKinney

Ariel is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in vocal performance and opera. She is a fervent Catholic who enjoys all that is artistic and beautiful; she also has her own photography business, Song of Songs Photography. www.songofsongsphotography.com

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  • MarcAlcan

    The beauty of letting go is that we know that when we put that which is most important to us in the palm of God’s hand, we know that it is in the best Hand possible. We know that it will be looked after, tended to, nurtured and nourished and returned to us increased and transformed. Fr Barron calls this the loop of grace.

    • I’ve never thought about trust in this way. What a beautiful thought!

  • Luke 1:45 “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

    Everything In Its Time by Corrinne May
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BLCeBTlTEI&feature=kp
    This song helped me trust in God during a dark period of my life. Hope it can inspire others as well. God Bless! 🙂

  • Peg

    I can relate to pretty much everything in your post aside from actually being transformed into a singer. I suppose I’ll have to be happy to live vicariously through you for now. Congratulations on being accepted by the University of Miami School of Music and enjoy your 5 weeks in Austria! I’ll be interested to see how things go for you, please keep us updated.

    God bless you and best of luck!

  • Robert Obayuwana

    I am indeed touched and encouraged by your story. I am moved to donate but lack the financial capability. One thing i surely have i will give and that is my prayers apart from sharing the message. Mat the Lord answer our prayers-Amen

  • Maria Perez

    Ariel,
    I have no money to give you so I’ll give you what best I have: my story and my prayers. I too wanted a career in science out of high school thirty years ago. As epilepsy was diagnosed in my senior year my world collapsed. My dreams of six months at sea earning credits where put on hold knowing my family would not allow it. Marine Biology required Biology in college and no matter how much I tried the tests came back with low scores. I blamed the teachers and did not want to see God’s hand at work. My writing abilities improved and I entered the world of journalism leaving behind my illusions, yet facing a beautiful world.
    I too function very well with lists and notes to self, always planning ahead. I describe myself as a problem-solver. God must have been laughing as He saw that I so needed to need Him; this is the main lesson I have learned.
    That passage which you quoted is also one of my favorites! He has everything under control.
    Every time I fail He shines through so people will see His glory, not mine. Sing your heart out, Ariel, but only if God wants to be heard through you in song.
    -Nicholson, PA

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