I have learned a lot about the word surrender over the years. It means ‘to yield to the power, control or possession of another upon demand or force.’ My first image is that of disheartened soldiers marching with downcast faces, defeated, with enemies prodding them on, at gunpoint, through snow covered landscapes. Or of a white flag waving from a trench as once proud military men emerge with their hands up and heads down. These images, mostly from movies and newsreels, do not make surrender look appealing. In fact, they very clearly show why surrender is to be avoided. Had it not been for these images stuck in my mind, I might have learned sooner that there is a significant difference between surrendering to your enemy vs. surrendering to God. I might have looked past definition 1 with all its ‘force, demanding and compulsion’ and seen definition 2 which simply states ‘to give up completely to the power of another.’ Because I think that there is a critical difference between the two definitions.
Life lessons…hard ones…teach the difference between them. Avoiding surrender to God because of the parade-of-shame perception is one such lesson. However, the first time the recognition occurs that giving up doesn’t mean becoming a prisoner, freedom begins cracking away the hard shell of the heart. Soon the reality that life is simpler when you let go becomes a new pattern of thinking…though the letting go part is harder than you would think. It started with surrendering my life. (Usually when you are in the pit and there is nowhere else to go.) God broke through and rescued me. So grateful was I that I willingly ‘gave up completely to the power of another.’ There was no other option and the relief of that choice was immediate.
However, the lifestyle of surrender was not yet on my radar, but soon enough I learned that giving up is a regular occurrence when walking with God. Over the years, and through life’s lessons I have learned to surrender, my expectations, my feelings, my children, my job, my gifts, my talents, my husband, my roles, my wounds, my stubbornness (Still working on that one), my heartache, my anger, my desires, my happiness, my sadness, my plans, my weaknesses, my will, my strengths…and any other thing that God pointed out through circumstances. Some of these have to be repeated with amazing regularity. It is a theme. Open-handed, bowed-head living. It is not easy because it requires humility, which I find in short supply most days.
Over and over again, God says…whispers really…‘Won’t you let me carry that for you?’ Each time I say no, the burden gets a bit heavier, until one day I melt down and finally give up my wrestling to trade it in for freedom. Then I wonder, why in the world I didn’t surrender sooner? What is it that keeps me from it? The answer is pride…wanting to be right or wanting things my own way or wanting control of my life. The root of all of those wrestling matches with God is my unwillingness to open my hand and bow my knee. You see, there is no gunpoint with him, no force, or demand. He simply waits and watches the breaking of our hearts by our own hand. Waits for the willingness. Waits for the “I GIVE UP!” Then he steps in and lifts the burden we were never designed to carry. Freedom follows.
As you can see, I have some head knowledge…and a small amount of heart knowledge… about surrender. Over the past few weeks, he has come whispering in my ear again. This time ringing in gentle quietness, “Surrender your viewpoint.” Over and over again he has said it. It rolls around in my heart trying to find a place to rest. My viewpoint is how I look at things because of my background and life experiences. I have a viewpoint. It is unique to me, just as yours is unique to you. To surrender it means to give it up…my way of looking at things. This has me flummoxed. I mean you have to have a viewpoint, right? Can I really surrender something as much a part of me as the way I see things? And why would he ask me to do that? What is the purpose? I want to avoid the usual wrestling match, so I tune my ear to his voice and listen carefully.
“You want your viewpoint to be heard, but as you are making it known, your ears lose their ability to hear another’s viewpoint. And the same is true of them. Soon everyone is yelling louder and louder trying to be heard, but never listening. All hearts are exposed as the ugliness surfaces and boils over, eventually it will lead to violence as everyone struggles to be heard. The problem is that each one thinks their own viewpoint is right. YOU think your own viewpoint is right.”
“So is my viewpoint wrong?”
“That is exactly my point. You are looking for right and wrong. Us vs. Them. You want your viewpoint to be validated by others. Shared by them. So you can be heard and known. Only it won’t work. It will cause only heartache and pain because pride is a fickle foe, turning on those who hold onto it without warning. You are looking in the wrong place for validation.”
“I want avoid heartache. So how do I do that?”
“Allow me show you MY viewpoint. From where I am there are no borders. There are no nationalities. I created all people, so they are all my children. My son died for each one. There are no governments. I am sovereign and rule my kingdom. I do not see petty political arguments; I see the depth of the heart. I do not view right or wrong as you do on surface levels of behavior and law, I see deeper to pride, anger, self-righteousness, and fear. I offer grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. I do not see denominations or divisions, I see my bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle. Surrender your viewpoint, daughter. Listen with new ears. Open your hand once again, and bow your knee.”
What exactly this looks like for me is unknown. I only know that I want to live a surrendered life. Giving up my old wineskins for new ones that can hold what ever he chooses to put into my open hands. And so I bow my knee, and my head, and I open my hands to relinquish my viewpoint and pride, to receive forgiveness for once again letting pride have its way in my heart. One more time, I give up completely to another power. I surrender.