Willingness. Commitment. Surrender. These three attitudes of openness are the keys to our growth into a deeper relationship with God. He does not wrestle or command or even grab us away from our personal trajectory or take away our free will.
She knows better than to make us a draggee by trying to convince us to or to make us go along with the plan. He gave us free will and waits for us to discover what a life lived in him would mean to us and how deadening a life lived in the culture is. What does entice us to turn our lives around? “Repent,” and heed God’s call all sound old and uninteresting to us today. It’s hard to even imagine in today’s rational worldview another possibility for our lives. Myth and story have been debunked. Living for some one or thing outside of our selves isn’t attractive. Our culture is so seductive, so materially based, so me-biased. And religion has betrayed so many of its stated values that fewer people are interested in it today.
So what would speak to us wired, busy people today? Only the possibility that there is actually a better alternative or experiencing the deadness and emptiness of a life lived according to the culture’s premises. We must find God and his alternative life on our own, maybe in the Bible, maybe by knowing someone who can love, not because the culture is pointing us to it. Sometimes it’s suffering or life circumstances that bring us to our knees. But it is always our choice whether we turn to God or not.
God needs our cooperation to bring us to a place where we can love, where we can fulfill the promise of our creation, where God can take delight in who she created us to be. So our willingness is the first step, the first pledge we make to God: “I am willing to go where you would take me.”
And God answers with delight and welcome.
The second attitude of openness to God is commitment. “I commit to putting God first in my life. I will be vigilant about what I say and do and all the attitudes behind my words and actions. I will continually turn to you, work with you, listen, carry out what we work out together, co-creating as we go.” Once we put our lives in God’s hands, he assumes all the heavy lifting—all the responsibility, so that we can just relax into being who we were created to be and into the love that already embraces us. And that is enough.
And God answers us with real purpose and meaning in our lives and love and forgiveness.
The third attitude of openness to God is surrender. My expectations, my assumptions, my wishes are no longer operative, because they are all culturally biased. I surrender to God’s view of my life, to his agenda for me, to what happens to me. God’s agenda for our lives is so different from our own, based on a much broader view of life.
And God meets us with her presence and support, challenge and the next step we are to take.
A life lived willingly, with commitment and surrender, is a whole different landscape and paradigm than anything we might have tried to accomplish before. Have you tried to control circumstances and people in your life? How did that work out for you? Did you try to make something happen that you were not ultimately satisfied with? Try to make someone love you? Pick a job that earned a lot of money, but no satisfaction? Manipulate your children or spouse so that they do what you want?
We are often too close to our own lives to be able to see what we actually need to do or where we need to go next. We are so acculturated that we keep trying the same old cultural ways only to find they don’t really work for us. If you’re like me, in this cultural which is so direct and rational, you might have found that a more meandering route towards what you want might work better than to do A + B equals C. You might have seen that an indirect but still determined approach, listening to the deep soul-self(God’s voice within) suits you better.
Where I have found that the direct approach works best for me is in being honest about what I want and expect. That’s just the opposite of what the culture taught me. These are two major things I have learned in a life surrendered to God. They may only apply to me, but they apply wholly to me and make my life a whole lot more satisfying than any approach that I tried on my own.
God takes our willingness and commitment and surrender and transforms us to be the people he created each of us to be. God brings us to our most natural selves where we are ready to fulfill his purposes for us. Isn’t that amazing? With God doing the heavy lifting of purpose and meaning and direction and responsibility we are free to bring our real, whole selves to the table where we commune with God and all life.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I willing, committed and surrendered to go where God would take me? What is the hardest thing for me to give up in this culture? Am I willing to ask for help with this issue?