Please help me to push myself aside

Although a young woman of only twenty-one, Flannery O'Connor's journal entries capture the yearning of a soul mature by grace, one who longs for God and for a life that should be less than mediocre in its resignation to the will of God and the desire to love. Her cries might seem presumptuous on the surface but she already understands so clearly the need for humility and not to let herself and her own desires become a shadow that blocks out the light of God's love.

“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.

I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.

I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way. Let me henceforth ask you with resignation—that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind—realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust. I do not wish to presume. I want to love.”

Excerpt From: Flannery O’Connor. “A Prayer Journal.”

“From January 1946 to September 1947, Flannery O’Connor kept a journal that was, in essence, a series of prayers. She was not twenty-one years of age when she began this journal, and at twenty-two, when she wrote the last entry, it was clear that her prayer journal had already made a difference in her life.

“By the time O’Connor wrote her final journal entry, she had offered herself directly to God. In her entries she sought to consecrate herself so that she might love the absolute more, sacrifice more. But on September 26, 1947, three years before the sudden arrival of lupus, the disease that had killed her father and would kill her, the young O’Connor wrote her last entry.

The journal itself was finished, and it accurately reflected O’Connor’s literary achievements thus far and even foretold her suffering and death. Not least were the results of her outlandish hope, at least in the twentieth century, for total commitment to God. In that hope she had created characters who knew (negatively, like the Misfit of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” or positively, like the tattooed man of “Parker’s Back” or Ruby Turpin of “Revelation”) the cost of having a destiny painful to wait out but, in her fiction, alive only through their waiting.

Before Christmas of 1950, O’Connor traveled alone by train from Connecticut to Georgia. Her friend Sally Fitzgerald saw the “active young woman with a bright beret” off at the station. But by the time O’Connor arrived in Atlanta, she looked drawn and bent, “like an old man,” according to her waiting uncle. In the course of her journey from North to South, O’Connor had had her first attack of lupus, the disease that afflicted her until her death in 1964, at age thirty-nine. Paradoxically, those years of suffering became the most fertile for her writing, and she produced some of the greatest fiction in American literature. Ironically, the prayers of her journal had been answered.”

(Take from Introduction to Journal by W.A Sessions)



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