Lenten Meditation 2: The Lie at the Heart of Human Sinfulness

The Lie at the Heart of Human Sinfulness

The lie at the heart of human sinfulness is that we can gain control of our existence by some action of our own and that God does not want us to have this power. God creating human beings in God’s own likeness is described in the first creation account in Genesis. But instead of accepting the friendship with God that was offered, human beings chose to enter into rivalry with God. The consequences of that disastrous choice plague our world still.

Do I harbor any distrust of God over control and power in my life? Can I pray the New Testament prayer “I believe; help my unbelief”?

—William A. Barry, SJ, in Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God

Friendship with Jesus has been central to my faith since my conversion. Perhaps because I was not raised Catholic, I haven’t had some of the same struggles with the idea of Jesus’ humanity described by those raised with more emphasis on God’s kingship. Intimacy with God has always been central to me.

However, I have a different kind of struggle, which is to surrender control to God in those areas of my life that are out of my control. In my life as a mom, teacher, wife, administrator, and household manager, I am a good at organization and balance. However, I find myself challenged when faced with events outside of my control. For example, in the aftermath of a broken friendship where my friend refused to re-engage, I found myself acting in ways that were demanding and impatient in the course of seeking reconciliation. Sometimes we have to accept loss, however difficult. Others’ responses are never in our own control.

Central to friendship with God, as with any friendship, is mutual trust. As I said recently to a companion, “I trust in God; it’s other people that can be hard to trust!” Yet trusting in God is also a matter of trusting that despite my own and others’ human limits and sin, I am gently being invited to cooperate with the God who wants to “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). I’m learning that I have not only to offer God my own creativity and responsibility, but to make that offer freely, without trying to control God or anyone else. Not easy!

How do we do it? The old adage says, “Let go and let God.” We can offer ourselves freely to God and to others and then let go of the outcomes. For example, in service work, I cannot know whether the person whom I am serving will benefit. But I can trust that God will somehow weave my actions into a larger, meaningful pattern. Slowly I am discovering that Jesus’ story and mine are intertwined, like threads in those old friendship bracelets that we used to weave back in college. The threads of both joy and suffering are like bright threads that contribute to the pattern of our stories with God.

This is part two of a seven-part series, Growing in Friendship with God This Lent.

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Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service-learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.


  1. Always trying to remember that God has a plan for me. And letting go to let His plan work. Challenge this Lent is to take time and mindfulness to listen… lots harder than I ever realize.

  2. Oh yes…trusting in God but not people, now that I can relate to, and to the mantra I lived by most of my early and middle years.. “If I can’t do it myself it doesn’t get done” These were the hard years as a single parent of three young children after escaping from an abusive marriage.
    Now, nearing eighty and beset by health problems that trust in God now has to extend to trusting others and, boy has it been a hard lesson to learn, and still ongoing. But God is
    exceedingly gracious.

  3. This is so been my struggle! Letting go of the control has been a constant source of strife in my life! This is a great reminder that I will read daily! I will pray in communion with all of you that struggle with this. Amen

  4. Thank you! I know trusting God can lead to not just a beautiful relationship with him, but also a great freedom with the knowledge that God loves me beyond all loving and truly has a plan for me and my best interest in his heart. Please pray for me that I can place the faith life of my loved ones in God’s hands and His plans for them. This has been a struggle for me for many years.

    • Me too. I have been praiying for years for a return to the faith for my family. I also have to remind myself that God sees them thru different lenses than I do. Now I am includeing all people that are oraying for their families. God bless

  5. Letting go involves trusting that God wants what is best for everyone and that God can look after the outcomes. All that we need to do is follow God’s will in our lives. Certainly not easy by any means! Thank you for this reflection and reminder.

  6. Letting go is also a struggle as you get older and have to watch your physical, and, I find even more difficult, your mental capacities, weakening.

  7. I have a problem with letting go-it’s all about me. The good news is that God is not letting go of me. I continue to pray for a deeper faith, for a ways to offer all that I am and do to Him. He is my friend, anyone else would be already be gone.

    • Beautifully said. These words speak to me. I wonder why God sticks it out with me, but am so grateful he does. Thank you.

  8. It has been 20 years since my husband died of an unexpected heart attack, but I’m still trying to “let go” – not only him but all the plans we had.. Each day I pray to “let go” a little of what is “my”…

  9. Like Jonah Barry & Marina remind is that God looks beyond our own best efforts and that letting go precedes letting God

  10. Same here. I often get flustered when I give advice and it turns to deaf ears and wonder why they don’t heed my true meaning good-for-you advice. But through silent prayers, I’ve learnt to give and let go. I’ve done my part, leave the rest to Him.

  11. Thank you for sharing, Professor. I have hard time trying to discern how to serve other people as a friend because my desire to communicate each other’s story and needs generally goes unreciprocated. I am discouraged by the fact that I am usually less helpful than others in people’s life.

  12. Letting go is truly a struggle. Especially for those of us in managerial work positions. I try to make a concious effort to “let go” but it is a definite challenge.


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