When I hear the word "surrender," I tend to think of pirate invasions or something else equally dramatic. Surrendering is seen as crying "uncle." Giving up. Quitting.
About five months ago, God called me to surrender. He said, Hey, Sarah, I need you to stop trying to control everything and just trust me. I'll take care of it. And I said, Sure thing, God! You've got it! Let me just take care of these eight million tiny little details first...
Because I've always thought of surrendering to be synonymous with weakness. I like to be in control and to know what's going on. My husband has always insisted that I hate surprises; it only recently occurred to me that he is right. I say I want to be surprised, but really I want everything to go a very certain way. I am, perhaps, a bit of a control freak about certain things in my life.
Sure, I like to be in control of the details. But it's the big things in life that I love to take charge of. Examples would include: what my job is; what my family looks like; where I live; money. And five months ago, these are all the areas that God told me just to give up trying to control and turn them all over to Him.
Of course, I resisted. I didn't want to be weak and just give it up. I can quote all the Scripture verses about how in our weakness, He is strong. I can tell students all day long about God's master plan and how He knows things we don't; how His plan for our lives is far greater than anything we can ever imagine. I know all of these things in my head. I even thought they were in my heart... until I was tested.
Here's how God tested me:
1) We got pregnant (yay!) Even though this was supposed to not be possible, it happened and that's awesome. Thank you, God, for miracles.
2) I became convicted that I am supposed to stay home with the baby. Full-time. And leave my awesome job that I love. Ummm... Okay, well, D was looking for a full-time job, so surely we'd have something soon. No problem! This is around the time that I accepted God's will for me and surrendered my future to Him. Whoot, mission accomplished.
3) D needed to have surgery again. And would not be able to work for at least two months. He would be home-bound for much of that time, without a reliable computer from which to apply for jobs. And this is the point where... I took it back. I unsurrendered. My spell check is telling me that "unsurrendered" isn't a word, but I am convinced it is - because it's exactly what I did.
With the baby due in two months, and with just over a month left at my job, I have taken back my surrender. We are on this journey (adventure?) towards parenthood and have no idea where we will be living or how we will be paying our bills come July. And for someone who likes to plan, this is excruciatingly tormenting.
(I should take a moment here to insert that God has been providing. We have financial provisions and health insurance through the end of June. We have supportive family. And D has been given an "all clear" on his bill of health and no longer has any restrictions on activity. These are all tremendous blessings, and I am thankful for each and every one of them!)
The last month has been difficult, to say the least. I have been an emotional wreck. It has been difficult to plan for a future with a baby when I can't even picture where she'll be sleeping, or nursing, or laughing for the first time. This last week, without any good news on D's job search and interviews, we have decided to accept the likelihood that we will not be staying in this area, and this acceptance has been extremely hard (especially since we have no firm idea yet of where we will go!) And so, in true human fashion, I have felt distanced from God. I have questioned why He's given up on us, why He's not providing the way that we want Him to, and how He can just sit there and be silent about all of these upcoming decisions. And I think about all of the people who love God with all their hearts and still suffer. Why should we be any different? I have lost the faith that God's provision is ever present.
And then, in church today, we sang a called "The Stand." These lyrics really stuck out at me:
So I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe, of the One who gave it all
So I'll stand, to You Lord, my soul surrendered
All I am is Yours
First, the thought of an abandoned heart really struck me. When I think of "abandon" as used here, I think of running wildly barefoot down a hill in the summertime, or laughing so hard with a good friend that your stomach hurts, or jumping off a tall rock into a cool, crisp mountain stream in all of your clothes. With a heart burdened by a need to control, the thought of an abandoned heart means freedom. I want to be free from this weight and worry.
The part that really got me, though, was "the One who gave it all." Every week at camp, we tell the students about how Jesus made the decision to die on the cross for us. He truly gave it all - His life! He suffered immensely at the hands of his persecutors, even though He was God. But the most amazing part of that story, at least to me, is not that He died on the cross and then rose from the grave (although thank the Lord for that!), but that He made the choice to do so. In the garden of Gesthemene, He asks God three times to take this burden away from Him. He knew what physical torture He would have to endure. But He finished His prayer with "not my will, but Your will be done." I believe that at any time, Jesus could have backed out of the crucifixion. He could have hidden or run away. Could you imagine Him just jumping down off the cross and saying, "Sorry guys, this is too much. Surrendering to God's will is too painful, and I just can't do it." I know it might seem silly, but really think about it. Jesus made the decision to surrender it all to God, even to the point of death. And He did this because He loves us and wanted to fulfill God's will! If that doesn't inspire some sort of awe, I'm not sure what will.
To You, Lord, My soul surrendered. If Jesus can surrender everything to God's will - why am I struggling so much? I am not being asked to give up my life, or the life of my husband or child. I am not being asked to endure persecution or torture. Instead, I am being asked to surrender my pride. Because that's what the need to be in control is - pride. D constantly has to ask "When will you just trust me?" because I always have to verify what he says. It's not that I think he's wrong; I just need to prove that I'm right. Obviously, this is not a good pattern of behavior in a marriage, and it's even more destructive when it enters in my relationship with God! Yeah, sure God, I know you've got it all figured out, but let me just check on this...
Ever since I took back my initial surrender to God's sovereignty in this situation, I have been broken and burden. I have felt weighted down, and unable to stand. I have become weaker in lack of surrender than I ever was when I turned it over to God. And yet it is here, only in complete surrender, that I can free my heart and find God's strength to help me stand.
I debated for a long time whether or not to write this post. It has been sitting in my "drafts" folder, in some form or fashion, for over a month now. I know that, once I post this, I cannot go back to my state of "unsurrender." I will be held accountable by anyone who reads this. But I am tired of trying to do it on my own. I desire the freedom that comes with complete and utter submission to God's will (as counter-intuitive as that may sound). So, here is my public proclamation: I am surrendering to God. Whatever He wants for me, I will accept. Wherever He leads me, I will go. Whatever He calls me to do, I will do. This time, no take-backs.