As I study the call to surrender and grapple with what this looks like for me, I have come to realize there are quite a few obstacles that question the sensibility of doing this, as well as my ability to embrace this endeavor. Some obstacles rear their head in the form of red warning lights that blink brightly, shouting questions like “What if?” Many of these cautions evoke an onslaught of turbulent emotions. In order to move forward in obedience to this call to surrender, it is crucial to identify, interpret, and remove anything that holds me back from full surrender. In my next few blogs I will focus on some of the obstacles I find myself contending with daily..
Perhaps one of the greatest physical, emotional, and mental struggles I deal with as I dive into the practice of surrender, is the reality that surrender doesn’t just invite me into the realm of the unknown, it demands it of me. When God asks me to surrender and let go, he is asking me to let go of all that I know and am familiar with and to obediently step into the unknown of His Providence and Sovereignty.
I like the uncomplicated rhythm that familiarity brings to my life. Change can be scary and is often disruptive, exhausting, and at times painfully uncomfortable. I love adventure. It is something my husband embraces with childlike delight, and after 18 years of marriage, I ’d like to think that I have learned to enjoy and share in his passion to experience and see different things. But, whether we are soaring into the heavens inside a small metal box with wings and a prop, or plumbing the depths of the ocean with small metal tanks strapped to our backs, we still maintain some degree of control. These adventures come with a clear understanding of what we are doing, where we are going, and how long it will take us to get there. Flight plans and dive plans are made, measuring fuel or oxygen consumption. Risk assessments determine if our adventure is a go/no-go, and each adventure requires lots of preparations so that if any surprise arises, is isn’t as surprising.
Surrendering to the call to follow God, is to relinquish control and the right to decide what path I walk, where the journey will take me, how long my journey will take, and what this Divine adventure will require of me. Surrender invites God into my life, my home, my family, my work, my hobbies, and my giving. Surrender gives God the freedom to disrupt the calm of the known in order to rearrange my priorities so that I can travel His path of Kingdom work. This might look like interrupted evenings, resumed education/training, transition of careers, diverted funds, and even (gasp), less involvement in earthly family so I can join in the work of growing His Kingdom Family!
How in the world do I find the strength and desire to cry out to God the words, “All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely Give?” Well the answer is found in the next part of the song 🙂 I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.” Jesus proclaimed that any person who does not hate father or mother, brother & sisters, wife & Children or his own life, that he couldn’t be his follower. This isn’t a call to actually foster the emotions associated with hate and to treat those on my life with acts of contempt. His point is that when I truly Love God and understand His unsurpassed value and worth, I will spend my days identifying and opposing anyone or thing that threatens to rob me of, distracts me from, or take from me any degree of what he desires for my life. True surrender means I am willing to forsake, push aside, and deny myself earthly comforts and pleasure because I do not want to miss even a second of His riches, glory and sweet fellowship. True surrender means I not only understand God’s value and worth, I believe it in an earth shattering, life changing, priorities shifting way. I surrender because I both Love and Trust Him. It’s hard to comprehend a love greater than the loveI have for my husband and children! I can’t even hope to foster a desire and drive that exceeds the relationship that with my family, but God declares that kind of love was bestowed upon me and that depth of love can grow and thrive inside my heart. I want this. I want to understand this love and be consumed by it. I want to know Him so deeply and fully, that any command, no matter what it is, can be yielded to without questioning, doubt & Fear!
All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him, In His Presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures allforsaken, Take me Jesus take me now
All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Saviour wholly Thine
Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.
When we hear of someone “losing” or “surrendering” their identity, it’s usually not in a positive light. For example, in a former relationship, my husband felt the need to suppress who he truly was (likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, activities he enjoyed) to try and win the approval of his fiance and her parents. Early on in my marriage, the insecurity and baggage I brought into our relationship made me feel like I had to hide who I was and what made me tick and instead become who I thought my husband wished I was. This made it hard for me to do simple things like voice my own perspective or suggest opinions that were different than the ones expressed by my husband. In fact, I was so insecure, not only would I struggle to tell him ‘what I wanted” (yes we’re talking about things like what restaurant to go to and where to vacation), I even stop drinking flavored coffee, which I absolutely loved, all because, in my husband’s opinion, flavored coffee was an abomination. Please understand, my husband is an incredibly sensitive and loving man. He never told me to only and always agree with him or I prohibit me from drinking flavored coffee, he just complained about how stinky he thought it was : )
The kind of surrender God is calling me to, is not an exchange of who I am in order to become what pleases another, which is in essence a lie and unhealthy. This type of surrender is in reality, a letting go of who I am not, in order to become who I truly am. True Biblical surrender is a call to understand, believe, embrace and become who God has declared me to be so I can accomplish the Divine work he has called me to engage in, for His Kingdom, His honor, and His Glory. Ephesians provides a beautiful picture of this heavenly exchange and provides a guide that helps us through the process of surrendering the identity of someone who has died in order to embrace and assume the identity of who God declares, equips, and calls us to be.
Do you realize that if you have received the gift of salvation, YOU are literally, spiritually, & physically an actual daughter of God!!! Please repeat that phrase and ask the Spirit of God to allow the reality of this truth to be understood by your mind in a way that transforms the way you think and act! At your salvation, an actual legal adoption took place in heaven between Judge and Savior, Father and son. There is an actual document with your name on it contained in the Book of Life. On this document you are listed as the daughter of God. You are part of His Family tree.
I was never into the Royal Family, and never understood friends who obsessed over them and followed their every move. I think the physical example (and failures) of kings and kingdoms have ruined our ability to understand the truth of who and what we have become in Christ. As trite as the kingdom and rule of an earthly king and queen is today, at a human level, it can still help us to comprehend, to a minuscule degree, what our new identity and position in Christ means.
Imagine being an orphan in the poorest country on the face of the earth. Not only do you live in a wretched country, you also live in the most wretched children’s home ever to exist. You have no rights or privileges, and you are not free to leave because you belong to the cruel owner of the orphanage. You do what you are told, wear what you are handed, and eat what little you are given in silence. There is no time for yourself. You are powerless and must do everything you are told, no matter how cruel, painful, or damaging it is to your health and life. This home is your prison and you know you will never set food beyond the miserable property upon which you live. Imagine if one day you received an official letter informing you that Queen Elizabeth had held a lottery and your name had been chosen. A press conference had been called, without you even knowing what was going on, and the Queen had declared to the world that you (insert your name here) had just been officially adopted into their Royal family. There on the spot, you are announced as the princess of England with all power, privileges, rights, and duties are bestowed upon you as the Royal Daughter. Accompanying this declaration is a request for you to prepare yourself for the journey to meet your new family and begin your new life. You are instructed to burn every scrap of clothing and discard every object in your possession that ties you to your previous life as a wretched, lowly orphan, and slave. Placed in front of you are boxes containing clothing and riches, the likes you have never seen. An attendant is also provided, This “helper” knows everything the Queen desires for you to do before your arrival. He knows what state you need to be in by the time you stand before her throne and He also has unlimited power and ability to carry out every demand that has been given regarding your physical appearance, conduct, possessions, education. All the time, resources, and opportunities you need in order to transform you from an orphan slave into the sophisticated and elegant princess of England is his to freely lavish upon you. Immediately, you are also free from the laws, constraints, rule of everyone around you, including the owner of the orphanage. No one has the power to demand anything of you or do anything to you. The only voice you are required to listen to, and the only kingdom and ruler that defines who you are, the scope of your power, and what is expected of you, is the kingdom and voice of the Queen of England.
A scenario like this would blow my mind YET this is our reality!! Can you wrap your head around the fact that as unreal as the story above sounds this, to an even greater degree is the true narrative of your life and calling? Does your heart quicken because you understand “This IS your Life?” You have been rescued from a literal and physical hellish existence! You are living, breathing Royalty! (I will give you my autograph if you give me yours) One day, you will live in an physical mansion of an actual brick and mortar Kingdom. You will walk streets of splendor with your siblings, who you will actually get along with. You will sit at table next to your brothers and sisters, millions upon trillions of them. You will be able to physically see, speak with, and permanently dwell with Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior of the world!!! You will enter into, remain in, and experience the presence of The The Living God who created the universe. Right now angels in heaven experience this but with head bowed, and eyes covered. All they can do is what God created them to do, proclaim “Holy! Holy! Holy! You are Lord God Almighty! God who was, is, and is to come.” BUT WE, we were created for relationship with Christ and we will dwell with him and remain in His presence. God is actually our Father!!! God is your daddy!
How does this impact how you “dress” yourself, physically, and spiritually every day? Who or what do you dress as? Doomed orphan or daughter of the King? What do you take off and put on every time you get out of bed? What identity do you surrender yourself to? How does the reality that “I am in the midst of the greatest wardrobe change ever known to mankind,” change daily activities, goals, and desires? All of us would jump at the chance if we were offered the opportunity of a “rags to riches” moment here on earth. How can we hesitate to accept the gift of our own eternal real-life rags to riches opportunity today? What part of the broken, filthy, powerless orphan are you holding onto today.
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts.Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, 5 has made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Like many, I spent some time considering what “word” to choose as my focus for 2021. As I was finishing the year with a great book, end of year sermons, and my own personal devotions, a word seemed to echo in my heart. So for the year of 2021, my focus will be upon the act of Surrender!
Normally, the word surrender isn’t not one we think of in a positive light. The definition of the word surrender is:
“To cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”
Whenever there is war, there will be surrender. In war, to surrender means to lay down weapons and to stop fighting for your cause. In war, the losers are the ones who surrender in humiliation and defeat. The climax of some of the greatest books and movies of all time, is the point at which the protagonist is confronted with prospect of surrender. The height of the plot coming when, with all option are exhausted, all strength depleted, and casualties high and the hero is faced with the choice to surrender pride, rights, livelihood, family, and freedom in order to survive. The resolution of some of the greatest battles in history are those in when, against all odds, the underdogs didn’t just survive, they defeated their enemy. Surrender is not something we are supposed to yield to, but rather something we fight against, at all cost.
But as I sit on the couch, the old hymn “All to Jesus, I surrendered” echoes in my head. Surrender!?!? Why in the world would I voluntarily do this you might ask? We just celebrated the Christmas season with the familiar words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to all men.” With what has gone on in our world in just the last year even, it’s obvious that this wasn’t a declaration to mankind and a promise that the end of all wars and violence had come to earth. We in America alone have experienced the Revolutionary war, Civil war, World war I & II, and vietnam war…… just to name a few. No, this announcement thousands of years ago held far greater meaning for all of mankind both present and future.
Because of sin, before that wondrous night in Bethlehem, man was always and only at war with God. Mortal enemies with an immortal and all powerful God with the doom of all mankind guaranteed. “But God, who is rich in mercy and great Love” sent His only begotten Son, in order to facilitate the most historic peace accord of all time. We deserved absolute annihilation as enemies of the Living God but Jesus, God’s Holy and Righteous Son, came as a babe and then died on the cross, feeling the full weight of His Father’s wrath and justice. Mankind, once mortal enemies with God could now be “brought near” and “called sons and daughters.” Where all of mankind once had the sentence of eternal death and separation from Christ pronounced upon them, they could now receive not only pardon but also adoption into God’s family. Added to this, a promise was given that man would only be pardoned, he would also become joint heirs with His Son, and gifted with all the rights and privileges that Jesus Christ, the Son of God had. The only action required was surrender.
For the 1st and only time in history surrender wouldn’t mean humiliation, imprisonment, expulsion, the loss of everything, execution, or suffering. This surrender, this bowing of knee to the rule and reign of God, meant adoption and absolvement of the debt we owed and could never repay. Surrender didn’t mean slavery and loss of freedom, it meant provision and power. Instead of the victor taking everything from us as plunder, we received complete access to His evenly treasures, imperishable, immeasurable, and eternal.
This is a gift I received as a young 6 year old girl but for God’s children, the need for and call to surrender is one I must engage in daily. This call to surrender has been a common theme and mantra of our church. A call to Surrender my time and talents, so they can be used for God’s purposes and glory not mine. It is a call to Surrender what is comfortable and familiar and to step out into the battlefield where I will be uncomfortably stretched beyond what I thought possible. It is a call to surrender my desire to have a safe and pain free life for my kids by stepping aside and allowing the Lord to have His way, in His time, with my kids. The day I kneeled in surrender, accepting the free gift of salvation and peace with God, my life of surrender had just begun. Its easy to forget this truth in the midst of a busy life. Its easy to forget my life is no longer mine, because it was redeemed with the most expensive and precious price ever paid.
So for 2021, surrender is my focus. The action of giving up one thing in order to obtain something else of greater eternal value. I know surrender might be uncomfortable and even painful at times, but in the end I know the words of Jim Elliot will prove true:
A few days ago I found myself quite irritated with my husband. If I were to disclose what it was that set me on edge I have no doubt you would shake your head in amazement and then hand me the number of a good marriage counselor because at that moment in time, my heart needed some help. As I stood trying to sort through what I was feeling and why, the Holy Spirit pressed upon my heart the realization that immediately identifying and dealing with this perplexing situation was not an option! As I forced my brain to concentrate on God’s call to love unconditionally, it struck me that moments like these, if left unattended, threaten the foundation of even the most solid and committed relationships. Couples do not stand at the alter on their wedding day with hearts full of contempt and disdain. What begins as true, committed love will always grow cold over time if the memories of what they loved most about their spouse are replaced and replayed with a growing list of hurts, offenses, and irritations. If I valued the gift of a healthy and thriving marriage and planned to honor my pledge “to love, honor, and obey till death”, not divorce, I had to figure out and deal with what really was going on in my heart towards my spouse. But, there was more going on in my heart than opportunity for a silly irritation to attack the foundation of our marriage. A few days later, God used a simple drive in the car and then a book to bring understanding and truth to a critical need to identify and eliminate some foxes in my vineyard.
The drive on Thursday wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t in a hurry, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. I was simply making my way back home after running some errands. As I approached an intersection, a car hesitated and then pulled out in front of me. With their available clearance to shoot the gap already in question, the car then proceeded to slow down and go a full 5 miles under the speed limit. Frustrated, I eloquently barked out my irritation at the inept driver. I did’t cuss and I didn’t rage or loose control of my emotions, but in frustration I proceeded to spend the next few minute explaining to the car in front of me exactly what I thought of their driving skills or rather lack of them. The entire time I was vocalizing my displeasure, the Holy Spirit quietly was doing the same to me to me. Conviction eventually led to muted irritation until opportunity provided me with the chance to get around my slow moving obstacle. I snapped the turn signal my, jerked my car into the other lane, and then stomped on the gas making sure to looked over as I passed the slow moving can in order to get a glimpse of the offending driver. My irritation seemed innocent, if not justified but deep down I knew I had responded poorly. I knew this outburst and the many others like it were wrong. I felt convicted and ashamed because I knew this was an ongoing problem I hadn’t been able to master. I also knew I this was a sin I should not excuse to justify and so I arrived home discouraged. I continued on with my day, got distracted, completely forgot about the interaction. Eventually, the sorrow and guilt over my conduct faded and the little fox remained in my garden.
Today I finished up Lisa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.” One of the last points she made about the importance and necessity of forgiveness, brought everything from the past week into light. Aside from the fact that God commanded us to forgive and Jesus tied it to the Father’s forgiveness toward us (Luke 13), was the truth that the consequences of refusing to forgive seeps into all other relationships and aspects of our lives. We can’t simply choose to not forgive a specific person and keep the effects of that bitterness confined to that one single relationship or situation. Bitterness is a sin that will spill into and poison all other relationships. Bitterness towards an “enemy” who has wounded us will multiply and be poured out upon the spouse we love, the friends we cherish, and the children we adore. Any sin rationalized and justified produces consequences that seeps into every aspect of our lives and relationships. I began to reflect upon the people and events in my life that had caused great brokenness and pain, things I would never be able to forget. There are memories so painful that the mere mention of names or events can trigger stifling anxiety attacks. Lisa’s words rang true as I began to connect the dots, recognizing a familiar pattern of keeping score, making lists, and withdraw from other relationships I cherished.
As I digested Lisa’s words, I thought back to my shameful ride in the car and then to the silly irritation towards my husband a few days earlier. The light came on again as I realized those 2 moments were also connected. Just as bitterness towards one relationship affects another, justifying my irritation towards an aggravatingly slow drivers created a home in my heart for the seeds similar irritation towards my husband. “Little foxes” (ie. sins) are often excused reactions that fly under the radar. While they seem innocent and harmless, they quietly perpetrate some of the greatest damage to relationships far and wide because they continue unnoticed and unhindered. I would never dream of killing someone who hurt me, but I can become so bitter I rejoice when they hurt or worse yet become bitter at God when they don’t. I may believe it absurd to divorce my spouse for something petty like leaving his underwear of the floor but I can poison my heart and love towards him by daily compiling a list of irritations, faults, and failures that silently and gradually erase from memory all that is good, and noble about him that I admired and fell in love with in the beginning.
All foxes that are welcomed or tolerated into the vineyard spoil the vines and destroy the grapes. Every sin tolerated and justified in one situation take root in our hearts and bring destruction in others. May God grant us discernment and vigilance to root out and annihilate all the little foxes.