Tips on How to Burn Your Ships, Part 2
By Carlos Briceño
As you may have read in my previous post, burning your ships is an intense process. Being part of a recent Zoom call, where I was invited to talk about living and caregiving in the present moment, gave me the idea to write on this topic.
The group that sponsored the talk, Nourish for Caregivers, wanted me to share about my experiences in taking care of my wife who has Huntington’s disease. My mindset for being a caregiver has been to learn how to live in the present moment, and one of the tips I gave to dwell there was to “burn your ships.”
Someone asked me what I meant by that in the Q-and-A portion of the talk, and I responded, but I felt the response was not adequate. It needed more fleshing out, which is why I wrote this two-part series.
Here’s the Zoom call sponsored by Nourish for Caregivers
In case you haven’t read part 1, here’s a concise summary of what burning your ships means: It means to seek God with your whole heart, mind, body and soul.
This post will offer some tips on how you can achieve that.
Tip #1: Live in the Present Moment
Father Wilfred Stinissen shares why it’s so important to live in the present moment in his book called Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us:
“The present moment is the incarnation of God’s eternity. Those who live in the present moment drink unceasingly of eternity. …
“When we are so preoccupied with our past and our future, we naturally have neither energy nor openness left for the present moment, the only moment that mediates God’s will. Just as we usually sidestep our true personality, which is ‘light in the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:8), we also usually seek God’s will by the wayside, in the wrong place. We always come too early or too late and never hit upon the present moment. We are obstinate in wanting to eat something other than what God serves, and then we are surprised that we have indigestion! We prefer to eat either old leftovers or food that is not fully cooked, and we think it is strange that we do not feel well.
“If, on the other hand, we try to be synchronized with God, we experience a well being in both body and soul; an elasticity develops. Living in the present is actually an invaluable exercise. We work and cease to work, we read and put the book down again, we speak and are silent, eat and sleep, always totally present, but in a constantly changing environment. We never do two things at once, always one thing after the other.”
By seeking God’s will, moment to moment, we place our priorities in the right place: on what He wants, when He wants it and how He wants it. By trusting that His will is your path to holiness, your attitude turns to one of peace, of joy, of love because you realize that (God the) Father Does Know Best, and that all is grace.
To accomplish this mindset, it’s worth it to take this advice, which Georges Bernanos, the author of Diary of a Country Priest, once shared: “Grace consists in forgetting oneself.”
The best way to do that is to zoom in on seeking God’s will in the present moment.
Tip #2: Learn to pray
Tip #3: Go the Speed Limit
Kids run. Everywhere. They’re in a rush. It makes sense. There’s so much of life they want to experience. The end result: constant motion. When I first started to drive, I used to be in a rush, too. I loved driving fast. Why get to a location on time when you can get there five minutes earlier?
Nowadays, by trying to live in the present moment, I’ve consciously pumped my brakes in living to slow down. To go the speed limit, in other words. In doing this, I see more. Everything pops more — colors, sounds, people, life, God. In seeing, hearing and feeling more, I have become more conscious, moment by moment, of the blessings in my life.
For instance, the other morning, I took my dog out for a walk. I saw the rays of the sun slanting through a tree. I saw a squirrel scurry up a tree, pausing several times to eat an acorn. I saw how green the grass was. I heard birds chirping. I felt the warmth of the sun. I was conscious that I was breathing. That I was alive. That I could see. That I could hear. So many blessings to be thankful for, all through the gift and grace of God’s Divine Providence.
Going the speed limit has made me realize that pausing to thank and praise God multiple times during the day allows me to seek Him more and more, with my whole heart, body, mind and soul. Gratitude and the awareness of His Presence and Providence unlock a pipeline to His love, which, once received, makes me want more of it.
Tip #4: Develop Triggers to Connect You with God
A trigger is something that acts to remind you to do something. In this case, what I have done is deliberately picked things that I see or experience that cause me to remember to open my heart, mind and soul to God.
For instance, at work, whenever I see several different paintings on the walls, they trigger me to recite a short prayer, such as, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Or, “Jesus, I surrender myself to You.” Or, I recite a Hail Mary.
I have developed the habit, when walking — down a hallway at work, or when taking a walk in my neighborhood, or when I’m in a store — to give thanks and/or to praise Him. So walking acts as another trigger.
When I’m stopped at a red light, that triggers me to give thanks and/or to praise Him.
Waking up triggers me to say thanks for being alive another day.
When I’m standing in line at a store, I repeat, “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or I pray for someone whom I know needs prayers.
My challenge to you is this: identify triggers that work for you and then build the habit of praying each time you are triggered to do so. Over time, you discover, on a hourly and daily basis, that you are putting into action what St. Paul suggested in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18:
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Tip #5: Read the Bible
Just read it.
Little passages at a time.
Let the “Sword of the Spirit” — the Word of God — “slice” into you. You won’t bleed. You will grow in love, virtue, service, mercy and forgiveness, especially if you follow the teachings of Jesus.
Tip #6: Get Out of the Way
What blocks us from fully seeking God?
The list is endless: Lack of forgiveness. Woundedness. Pride. Ego. Doubts. Fears. You get the picture.
At the heart of each of these blocks are the lies and deceptions of the devil.
Your mission is to figure out what the lies and deceptions are — here’s where faith, trust/confidence in God, self-awareness and humility come in handy — and then work on forgiveness, of others and yourself, to overcome them and to heal from them. Easier said than done, of course. But, your (eternal) life depends on it.
In the meantime, an abundant life awaits you if you are able to figure out what blocks you from fully seeking God.
“Creation is weak,” writes the late Archbishop William Ullathorne in The Groundwork of the Christian Virtues.
“The grace of God is strong; the end we have to reach is high above us. Only the power of God can bear us up to God. Our will is free, and if we follow the divine attraction, the grace of that attraction will bring us up to His presence. But if we choose the attraction of these base and low things among us… and prefer the sordid limits of our nature to the heights of the divine goodness, we remain in the bonds of our disordered existence, distressed in spirit and far from God.
“The whole plan of our happiness is defeated from our want of generosity. What does God ask of us? Not that we should be stronger than we are, but that we should confess our weakness and accept His strength. For God has provided all things for us in great abundance. Nothing is wanting but our will. If we are in a low position and short of sight, He has sent forth His light and His truth to lead and guide us. If we are weak of will, He sends His grace to strengthen and lift up our will. If we are uncertain of His ways, He has sent His son in our likeness to teach us His ways, who has ordained His Church for every place and time, that His truth and will may be always at our doors.
“Our will may be weak, very weak; He asks for that will that He may make it strong. Our abuse of our will may have defiled our soul; He asks for that will that He may make us clean. All that God asks of us is our will; when given to Him, in whatever condition, He will make it good. But without our will, every provision to help and strengthen us is in vain.”
Bygiving God your will you are declaring that you are seeking His instead.
May these tips help you to burn your ships — so that you may seek Him with your whole heart as often as you can and with as much love as you can.
To read more about surrendering to God in the Present Moment, go to https://thesotpm.substack.com/