On a recent retreat with some friends it rained, a lot. After looking forward to getting out of the office and into nature, I was not a happy camper when I realized it was going to rain all weekend. There is something restorative about being outside, and my soul desperately needed restoring. I thought: Really, God! You know how much I was looking forward to this. Of all the weekends…and not just a little rain! (A state of emergency was declared not too many hours from us due to flooding.) Thankfully, instead of staying frustrated, God once again reminded me of the freedom and joy that comes through surrender.
Surrender is letting go of the demand for a situation to turn out according to our plans, while still staying present in the moment. In general, I often resist this because it feels like weakness. As an American male, it has been thoroughly ingrained into me to never give up. To surrender feels like I am abdicating or resigning my responsibility as a man. If my surrender is to Fear, this is true. However, surrendering to God is not “giving up,” but rather demonstrating my dependency on the Father and looking to him for life.
God has arranged life in such a way that it does not work without him. In his goodness he often has to thwart our efforts lest we miss the very Life we are striving for. As Jesus reminds us, we can do nothing apart from him who is our true vine (John 15:5). So many times God has to close doors, bring the rain, and otherwise frustrate our plans so that we can remember that Life is in him alone. There is life when we surrender our demands and abide in the Vine.
To surrender feels like death, which is rarely a pleasant or sought after experience. Often I surrender only because I have no fight left in me. All my usual efforts and coping mechanisms no longer work, and no matter how hard I try doors keep closing. I may redouble my efforts and still nothing happens. It is here, in these dark moments, when I’m at the end of my rope, that I am finally willing to surrender, to let go, to die. And this is the paradox of the gospel: when we are willing to die, we can then truly live (Mark 8:34-35). This is the way of the Cross, and the way modeled for us by Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).
Overall, surrendering to the rain at the retreat was a relatively small matter, but even here God brought life. Being stuck indoors allowed us to connect on a deeper level with each other than we probably would have otherwise. When we are faced with major financial stressors or relational problems, for example, surrendering is much harder to do. However, when we can practice surrendering to Love in small matters our faith is strengthened. Surrendering to Love then becomes a natural posture of our hearts, even when faced with life shattering circumstances. This is faith in action, letting go of our attempts to control and trusting in the goodness of God.
In this moment, will you trust Love? Will you surrender?
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. –John 12:24