For the last week, I’ve had a mash-up of St. Ignatius and R&B singer John Legend stuck in my ear. The Suscipe— “Whatsoever I have or hold, you have given me. I give it all back to you.”—fades into the spare percussive chords of Legend’s “All of Me”: “I’ll give my all to you. You’re my end and my beginning. Even when I lose I’m winning,” and finally winds back to Ignatius and John singing “I give you all of me” in two-part harmony. At odd moments, I find myself humming Legend’s melody or murmuring, “I give it all back to you,” under my breath.
I’m having no trouble decoding my subconscious’s soundtrack. The last two weeks have been all about surrendering what was once entrusted to me, once held within me.
Last Tuesday, I watched my oldest son, Mike, walk to the bus, towing his two carefully weighed duffels behind him. Only a half-block away, his form was already blurred by Philadelphia’s humidity, or perhaps it was my tears. He was off, by bus and train and plane, to Ireland to study at the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin. (I was grateful, at least, that he didn’t have to cram the name into the bag with his Greek books and bed sheets.) And on Sunday, I sat with my husband on a wall outside a dorm in California, as our youngest firmly and gently said good-bye to us. I return it all to you, O Lord.For many years I’ve begun work with a cup of tea and the Suscipe, offering all I have been given, begging for the grace necessary to the tasks at hand. Then with a brisk “Amen,” I set aside tea cup and prayer and dive into the day. Alas, all too often, 30 minutes later finds my e-mail open and the phone ringing, and me, oblivious to the support both caffeine and grace are offering.
But as this semester starts, bringing it with it the usual stream of small crises—students with scheduling travails, cranky classroom technology, photocopiers that groan under the weight of syllabi—my persistent Ignatian soundtrack keeps me awake to the countless tiny invitations I have to return to God what I have been given in the course of each day, and the myriad ways in which God’s grace billows up in response to each small surrender. In letting go of the big things, I’m learning anew to be alert to the small graces. Even when I lose, I’m winning.