Updated: Oct 6
Continuing my theme of Letting Go – today I will tackle the not so popular idea of Surrender. Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? We are taught from an early age not to give up, that we can do it, to work hard, make a plan, and execute the plan. That’s all positive, right?
Yes and no. Indeed, we should work hard, make a plan, and work the plan. But then what? What if all that does not yield the results we intended? What if unforeseen factors, or factors beyond our control, or even people, get in the way? Do we dig in and try harder? Adjust the plan? Give up on the plan? Any of those could be the correct choice, depending on the circumstance.
In the case of a stymied plan, as in the case of everyday life, I believe we are called to live in the present (not in the future of what we are striving for or in the past where perhaps different circumstances existed). And then, standing clearly in the present, we need to look realistically at our situation and discern our path from there.
Discernment requires an openness to the guiding of the Spirit which is only made possible on our part by holding things loosely – not preferring one outcome or direction over another – so as to be free for the Spirit’s guiding. Because, believe it or not, we do not always know what is best for us in every situation! Discernment also requires stepping away from the noise to actually listen to how God may be trying to inform us. It also requires trust – trust that God wants what is best for us, trust that God is laboring to show us what that is, and trust that with God’s grace, we will be able to know that. It requires a huge amount of letting go – letting go of how we want things to go, letting go of our control of the situation, letting go of our timetable. When we put things in God’s hands, we have no idea how things will play out, what we are to do about it and when or if it will happen. This is surrender at its finest – and most uncomfortableness!
The biggest example of surrender that I can think of is Jesus’ agony in the garden. And we all know how that turned out! At first, he makes his desires known – his plan – "If it is your will, take this cup from me" (Luke 22:42a). This is good and right that we should have this conversation with God, as we would with anyone we love, letting him know our hopes and desires for the situation. But Jesus ends this exchange with complete surrender – "yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42b). Jesus’ “yes” to God’s plan, sets in motion the events we are all too familiar with that end in his Crucifixion.
That of course, is often in the back of our minds when we hear the word surrender. Yikes! Who wants to surrender if that is the outcome?! But what we often fail to include in this vision is what the surrender ultimately leads to. In Jesus’ case, it led to the Resurrection, eternal life, and salvation of the world! BIG surrenders lead to BIG resurrections! And there is always a resurrection after the surrender. Whether it is our more everyday letting go of the outcomes we wish were different, the people who behave in ways we wish they would not, the hurt or pain we have experienced, or the many ways our lives do not go according to our plan, some kind of resurrection always follows.
When we can discern the reality of the situation and let go of what we have no control over anyway, we can experience new life – resurrection. And then be led on our new path – which may be an adjustment to the initial plan or perhaps a completely different plan. The beauty of this discernment and surrender is that it leads us to gratefulness for every moment of our lives, even the times of trial – because we know they are leading to new life - clarifying, healing, strengthening, or increasing our trust in some way. And all this eventually leads us to more peace, joy, and love in our lives. And isn’t this our ultimate desire anyway? We may have had a different plan for getting there, but we can rejoice in the destination.