Surrendering our lives to God is the dividing line in our lives. Before surrendering we live in the physical world that we see and the world that we’ve been taught to expect. After surrendering we still live in what we call the “real” world, but our eyes start to focus on what Paul in 2 Corinthians calls “what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”[4:18 NRSV]
In other words we begin to see God, the Eternal, in the “real” world, in other people, in events and in nature. That first act of surrender is followed by many other acts of capitulation, big and small, as we begin to realize that one of the main tasks of the spiritual journey is to give up our expectations, desires, preferences, clinging to the past, putting others before God, and all the other things that stand between ourselves and God. The task is to give over all these things that keep us fixated on the past or the future so that we can dwell in the present and meet God there.
Then we can hear what God is calling us to do and say right in the moment. It is this partnership with God that Jesus modeled in his life of prayer: withdrawing to a quiet place often in order to commune with God and, even on the cross, praying to God. The more we realize our true selves [by giving up all the cultural values we assumed in growing up]which God created, the closer we come to a partnership as co-creators with God. As in the quote of Paul’s above, we no longer identify with the temporary, we have turned to the Eternal.
What are all these small surrenders? We give up our right to complain about the traffic or that driver, we accept that this person whom we would rather avoid is in our lives, we take interruptions as opportunities. We welcome and accept what our day contains, we give up being short with our loved ones and learn to listen to what they are saying and to “hear” what they have left unsaid. We learn to speak what is true for us and stop trying to manipulate situations and people. In other words we embrace what is in our lives as if every single thing has been given to us by God.
Each of these little surrenders adds to the practice of surrender so that when a really challenging event comes along we can say “yes” to that, too. In surrendering we cannot hang on to our anger or to hating what is before us, but still trying to yield—that’s only halfway there. Surrendering is about completely welcoming whatever has come into our lives as a gift that we are to embrace and learn from. We are able to do this because of our love for God and our desire to live in peace.
The truth is that all our objections, unmet expectations, desire for control, anxieties and worries, and other resistances to what is, when not surrendered, drain our energy and leave us depleted for what is really important to us. And they leave no room for the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” [Galatians 5:22 NIV]