The spiritual journey comes with many challenges and many joys. The first challenge is giving up my life to Christ and agreeing to let him lead me where he will. And then comes a long period of retraining/transformation of how I think, how I feel, how I think about myself, how I relate to other people, how compassionate I am, and many other changes. God has a plan for each of us, but he needs our willingness to surrender all of who we are in order to accomplish what he wishes with us. For us this means offering up every dark corner of our lives—the source of how we are with people and with God—so that we can be transformed into the people that God wants us to be, that he created us to be.
Surrender is the key to everything in the spiritual life. We need to surrender the world’s ways of thinking and being that are so deeply engrained in us. We have to the surrender our own preferences, expectations and desires for our lives. We’ve grown up in the world and often aren’t conscious at all of how our upbringing has influenced the way we think. The spiritual journey means moving from living in the world’s point of view to God’s. All these surrenders of our attachments to the ways of the world mean that we are giving up our plan for our lives which has been deeply conditioned by the world in favor of God’s plan for us.
We can’t hang on to our viewpoints, our plans for ourselves and our lives, if we are to love God. We have to surrender to the greater truth for our lives. Until we do surrender our lives to God, we will experience dissatisfaction with our lives, or a gnawing sense that something undefinable is not right. I think it’s a tough pill to swallow, but surrender is the way we were designed to thrive—surrendering to God’s will for us, leaning on, trusting in his providence in all things, resting all our human desires in his arms. There is no other way to find peace, joy, love, patience and all the rest of the fruit of the spirit.
It’s starts in Genesis with God fashioning man in his own image and declaring him good. In the story. In the second version of the creation, Adam lives with his mate Eve in the Garden of Eden where they were at one with God. When God gave us free will, he also set the parameters for our lives. If we break the laws, we’re thrown out of that oneness into the world. If we come back to him, repent as John the Baptist has it, then we can begin to enjoy that oneness once again as he transforms us into the people he created us to be in the beginning.
We either live in Eden/the kingdom with God and his laws or in man’s world with men’s laws.
And the way back to Eden is to surrender. So today it’s surrendering to the slow car ahead of me when I am in a hurry. Later it’s surrendering to the fact that I will be late for my appointment and calling ahead to warn that that’s true. And after that, it’s surrendering again to my spouse forgetting my priorities. And the price of groceries going up! And to a friend’s not understanding me. And then, it’s surrendering to my own forgetfulness of God’s call. God calls us to surrendering to what is true already in our lives that we would instinctively reject.
God’s call is to surrender my, that is MY, wants, expectations, desires, preconceptions and more. I call it the 10,000 surrenders of all the culturally conditioned wants in favor of what is already in my life that I would like to ignore, change, throw out, etc.
Surrender is a costly practice, a sacrifice of all that I desire except the desire for God. That never needs to be surrendered. But all our addictions, be they to drugs/alcohol, to shopping/buying more and more material stuff, to spending hours on the computer/phone/games/TV, to burying my head in a book—these are all activities that stand in the way of our relationship with God. They have to go. As well, the busyness of today’s lives has to go. Where is the room for God in your life? Maybe just in church on a Sunday? God wants all of us, every part of us, the employed part of us, the married part of us, the parental part of us, the leisure part of us, the ego of us, and all else that exists in us.
Jesus said that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength. That’s the sum total of who we are given in love to him. No holdouts. No take backs. Everything given. It’s a radical shift in who we are and whose we are. If we are leading a surrendered life, we no longer owe anything to the world. Even if we are employed, our lives and how we live them belong to God. If we are married, we are married first to God, knowing that he will take care of all our needs, marital and otherwise. If we are parents, we have our own Parent in God, and we are loyal to him first of all. And so it is in all aspects of our lives. First and foremost, we belong to God.
This is the radical nature of Jesus teaching. It starts and ends with the Two Great Commandments to love God with all of ourselves and to love our neighbor as (we love) ourselves. We enter into this love first of all through entertaining the fact that God loves us, warts and all. And as we contemplate doing the same with ourselves, we have to admit to ourselves all our flaws, all the guilt and shame in our lives whether we are the source of it or another person is– all the areas where we fail to live up to what God wants for us.
Then we begin to turn the eyes of love onto ourselves. We look with the eyes of love in every dark corner in our lives. We accept all that we have been and done and what was done to us. We become comfortable that we are not perfect and may never be perfect. We invite God into every dark corner of our lives to heal and to transform us.
For how could we accept God’s love for us if we haven’t first accepted ourselves, softened our own opinions of who we are? It is one thing to “know” in our minds that God loves us and to never feel a bit of that love. It’s quite another to have softened towards our own inconstant, imperfect selves and then admit God’s love for us into every cell in our bodies, every corner of our minds. It is overwhelming. It is cleansing. It is constant. It is healing. It is given to us as we open up our lives more and more to God.
How could we admit that love into every cell in our body if we are defensive about who we are? We’ll project it out onto a God who is punishing because that is what we deserve. We’ll project our own discomfort with ourselves onto others and accuse them of doing the same things we do—which we won’t admit to. Can you see how not loving ourselves means we not only distort who we are, but also who God is and who our neighbor is?
So the first step is to admit that we are lovable. Then we can turn the eyes of love on ourselves and like what we see. Oh, it may take a while, but it is well worth the journey, because we are well worth that journey. Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I taken the first big step into the spiritual life with Christ, surrendering my life to him? If I have done that, have I been willing to let go of all my wants and desires for my life? Am I letting Christ transform me by turning over to him all the dark corners of my life? Am I trusting God with all of who I am?
Blessing of the week: May we be the people of God who surrender everything to Christ. May we be able to hear all that we says to us. May we follow his lead.
I am asking again for your stories for my book on the Exodus story. The topic this time is purpose: Has God made clear to you what your purpose is? How did he reveal it to you? What is your purpose, at least as you understand it today? I won’t use your real name in the book.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
And a new one: God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.