As a senior in college, I spend a lot of time preparing: editing resumes, filling out applications, planning next steps. Consequently, I find that I can’t help but prepare for my spiritual life, too. I’ve been wracking my brain with well-intentioned questions: How can I be useful to the Church…How can I be useful to You, God?
Surely, I’m not the only one who has asked this. After all, who wouldn’t want to offer God everything, to pursue a radical life of spreading the Gospel, of sharing His love? Sign me up! I’ve spent endless moments considering the possibilities, thinking of how my talents could be of use to God’s Church.
However, not long ago, God left me with a powerful reminder: It is better to be used than to be useful.
Used. The term often carries negative associations, but that’s because we’re rarely used by those who have our best intentions in mind. But God? He never uses unjustly. So being used by Him is a gift, a privilege even!
To be used means to forget oneself, to put oneself at the disposal of another. It is different than being useful, which strives and seeks and attempts to find worth in self-sufficiency. Because it looks outside and not within, being used is inherently more selfless than be useful.
I’ve found myself continually repeating this thought whenever I get caught up in the ambitious side of my faith. It’s not about becoming the best saint, or reaching the most people, or having a quantifiably measurable impact; no—it’s just about God. It’s that simple (yet of course we manage to complicate it). When we let God use us, it’s not that we stop caring about impact or reach, but rather we recognize that our impact in the Kingdom is contingent only upon our ability to surrender ourselves as His vessel. He is the mediator of grace. He is the actor. We are nothing if we’re apart from His guidance and counsel.
We need look no further than our Blessed Mother to see this humble disregard in action. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). The Queen of Angels, the Mother of God, chose perhaps the lowliest of all titles to refer to herself: a handmaid. Like a vessel emptied of its innermost contents, Mary forgets herself in order to create space for the Lord. And indeed does He fill this vessel, to the top and overflowing with His kindness.
To be used by the Lord requires complete disregard of everything upon which our world has placed value; our GPA, our degrees, our skill set, work experiences, etc. matter only insofar as they are placed totally at the foot of Christ’s altar, to be used (or not used) however He pleases. Holiness is unlike anything we’ve ever strived toward; it doesn’t function like a job position or career goal. No, it is the natural side effect of a life unconcerned with itself and concerned only with doing God’s will in each moment. It is radical and it is truly beautiful.
As we put ourselves as Christ’s disposal, let us be comforted by His own words of encouragement in the Gospel of Matthew: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Amen.