“Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.” No phrase of literature more summarizes the irrational fixation of the ego, the heights of pride in which the individual turns in on him or herself simply for the sake of asserting their will against others. Although we would never profess such a creed on our lips, so often this slogan becomes the implicit programming of our interior life. While we may confess Christian discipleship, so often our actions indicate otherwise.
The path of surrendering our ego lies not so much in greater discipline and exertion. Such effort is a secret snare of the ego itself, and as we strive with greater attempts of using control to rid ourselves of our self-centeredness, we become more entangled in webs of anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness. We may attain a certain level of exterior piety, but such piety often is laced with a kind of rigid conformity that lacks the authentic rest of the Holy Spirit.
In the Our Father, the line, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” is the essential antidote that provides the foundation for our authentic divination in Christ. First, it teaches us to cultivate hope by reflecting constantly on the ideal of heaven, an ideal that is more mystical than concrete. In this way, instead of giving us a law code which we must meticulously follow, we must instead learn to gaze into that mystery of God’s presence and to be captivated by a beauty which goes beyond the dictates of moral obligation. Of course, for the good order of the community, we always must maintain a kind of threshold morality, but this morality is not the end or even the means. Rather, it is the necessary precondition for the gift of God’s rest.
Ultimately, in surrounding our will each moment (perhaps with each breath), we enter into a rest in which the vice grip of the ego is loosened and the heart is able to play with boundless creativity. Instead of obedience to the Father being servile, it becomes the very core of our new found freedom through adoption, a incredible participation in God’s relationship with God. Through obedience, we become “Sons in the Son,” equal with Jesus Christ through the gift of grace. Thus, obedience is the characteristic of Christian maturity and pride the illusion of immaturity.
Today, let us embrace the path of transformation by always placing on our lips this phrase of the Our Father. Let us learn to say with constant remembrance, “Not my will, but your will.”