Ellen Mongan: Path to surrender does have a guide

When my husband Patrick and I walked down the aisle on our wedding day more than 40 years ago to say our “I do’s,” our lives changed forever. But this new journey would eventually take us to another “I do” as a couple and to God. This was a call we heard to give up all and follow Jesus – a call to surrender.


The road God chose for our sanctification was traveled hand-in-hand toward Pat’s ordination as a deacon in the Catholic Church. This journey was a winding path along which, as a couple, we grew spiritually in oneness and that, as an individual, led me to surrender to God.

Pat’s formation took place in the Diocese of Savannah and required one weekend a month to study with the other candidates and their wives in Dublin, Ga. The alone time was just what the doctor ordered for parents of a large family. My husband, a family medicine physician, could not have given us a better prescription if he had written it himself.

We both looked forward to the three-hour car rides as a time for quality conversation. The teachings during the weekends gave an opportunity to grow spiritually in our faith together. The other couples were a support for each other and there was ample time to discuss the material provided. The time alone with Patrick was a bonus, like a second honeymoon.

On May 31, 2008, Patrick was ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. In reality, the journey had only begun! Just like on our wedding day, we did not know where this would take us. As we ventured into unknown territory, I was overjoyed.

Pat’s first assignment was at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta. After a short stay there, we found ourselves saying goodbye to lifelong friends and family members to begin full-time ministry in Macon, Ga.

It was bittersweet as we left all to follow Jesus and, hidden in my heart, it became evident that I had some reluctant “I don’ts” along with mostly “I dos”!

God spoke to my heart, telling me, “Your time is not your own.”

God’s still small voice was so quiet that I failed to hear.

“Your husband is not your own. I have work for him to do.”

I was shocked that Pat embraced full-time ministry with such ease and commitment. I, the cradle Catholic, the daily communicant, who was zealous for the faith, held back. God says, “I make all things new,” and I was clinging to the old.

The problem was that I became resentful when Pat chose more time with church than family. I went to a priest about my dilemma and he said, “One of the crosses you bear as a deacon’s wife is sharing your husband with the whole church.”

The path back to balance and normal life for this deacon and his wife has had its twists and turns, detours and desert experiences. Along the journey, I have learned to pray for my husband daily, to spend more time building family on my own, and to let “go” and let “God!”

The most important lessons I’ve learned are to communicate my needs clearly and honestly, to discuss commitments, and to schedule adequate time together.

I’ve learned that the path to surrender can come in many forms: the death of a loved one, a terminal illness, loss of a job or a midlife crisis. It is a journey you must take with God alone, a journey into the unknown.

If Jesus calls you to be His disciple, He will provide the grace needed. Never be afraid to take Jesus’ nail-scarred hand each day. For He who calls you by name will never abandon you. Hidden in the call to surrender is freedom in Christ. Do not be afraid to surrender all!


Ellen Mongan is a Christian writer and speaker and the founder of Little Pink Dress Ministry. Email her at littlepinkdressministry@gmail.com.