Have Thine Own Way, Lord

As she sat in a prayer meeting early in the last century, Adelaide Pollard was so depressed that she could hardly concentrate. She had felt a heavy burden in her heart for the continent of Africa and was convinced that God wanted her to go there as a missionary. She had been on the verge of preparing to sail when it was evident that the necessary funds could not be raised and her plans had to be canceled. Into her dark mood a few words filtered. They were part of the prayer of an elderly lady she knew: “It’s all right, Lord! It doesn’t matter what you bring into our lives; just have your own way with us!” As soon as she muttered those words, her burden was lifted. In her submission to God’s will, she had found peace.


When she returned home that evening, she meditated on the story of the potter as recounted in Jeremiah 18:3-4: “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The words seemed to describe the experiences of her life. Born in 1862 in Iowa, she had been well trained and for several years had taught in a girls’ school. She was also a talented writer of both prose and poetry and produced many religious articles and some hymns. But her real interest was in evangelization, and soon she began a ministry of teaching the Bible. Her consuming passion was in the foreign missions. Now it seemed that God, who had been molding her all along, had suddenly deserted her. “But,” she thought, “perhaps my questioning of God’s will shows a flaw in my life, so God has decided to mold my life again in His own pattern.”

Out of this heart-breaking experience, Adelaide penned a beautiful hymn that is sung in many Christian Churches even today. Here are the first few lines from that hymn:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

She acknowledged that the assertion of our will is the basic sin that we commit before God. We go about our lives living as we please, assuming that God has no claim over us. Even after we know Christ, the sin that we allow to creep into our lives is centered on the self. Sometimes we even sin while doing God’s work when we insist on doing it in our own way and according to our time schedule. Realizing her sin of frustration with the Lord when her plans fell through, she wrote the second stanza of that hymn:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Search me and try me, Master, today!

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,

As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

As we begin this advent season, we are proposing as our theme the following passage from the first reading for the First Sunday of Advent: “We are the clay and You are the potter: we are all the work of Your hands.” In order to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ, let us follow the example of this holy woman. Let us become pliable in the hands of the Potter so that He can shape us into a holy vessel that He can use for His work. We need to allow God to have His way with us.

If we look closely at all the central actors in the Christmas story we will discover that they were obedient servants. The Son of God comes to fulfill His Father’s will. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes Christ’s mission in these words: “Here I come to do your will. Send me!” Mary is the humble handmaid of the Lord who submits to God’s design as she utters those memorable words: “Be it done to me according to your world!” Joseph is the just man who obeys God and takes Mary as his wife even though his heart is shaken by doubt. Even the shepherds obey the call of the angels and hurry to Bethlehem where they find the Baby with His mother.

If there is one virtue that is really challenging for us, it is obedience. We are the most law-conscious people and yet we find ways to get around them. Lawyers and tax accountants abound in our society because we would like to find loopholes and do our own thing. To allow someone else to call the shots in our lives is unthinkable. And yet, in order to become holy, we need to let go off our plans and submit ourselves to God’s design. During this holy season, can we strive to seek God’s will? Can we spend time in prayer and reflection in an effort to discover what God wants from us? Can we pray for grace to surrender our will to His?

When we surrender, we will discover peace. Seeking our own will leads to misery. Seeking His will inevitably brings us joy. Hopefully our lives will give expression to the final stanza of the hymn that Adelaide wrote:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway!

Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me!

I wish you a peaceful and God-filled Advent. God bless you and your loved ones!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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