The Aftermath of Surrender
I don’t know about you guys, but I excel at spiritual insights I can’t manage to implement. No matter how hard I try, the gap between what I know in my head and how I live that out keeps getting bigger.
I know it’s a human thing, not a Heather thing. But sometimes it bums me out.
Last week, though, a chance encounter with an old friend shifted my perspective a bit. I hadn’t seen him for ages and was anxious to catch up. For the past year or so, he told me, he’d felt certain God was preparing him for a specific role in a particular ministry.
A few weeks ago, they hired someone else. “It felt like the bottom dropped out of my life,” he explained. “I ended up sobbing on the floor in front of my wife.”
His honesty surprised me. In the past, I think pride would have kept him from disclosing such a personal disappointment. He would have put on a brave face for everyone but his wife.
Instead, I’ve never seen him more relaxed, real, and open. At one point he said, “I don’t understand God. I don’t get life. I don’t get how any of it works, anymore.”
But he said this without a trace of bitterness, and even with some relief. The longer we spoke, the clearer it was to me that my friend had undergone a huge surrender. He’s been forced to let go of a dream, to relinquish spiritual certainties, and to accept that God’s will is infinitely mysterious—and often, disappointing to us.
And yet, I’m tempted to say he seemed happy. Not the kind of happy that comes from getting what you want, but the kind that comes from giving up on what you want altogether.
As tough as that sounds, I almost felt jealous. It made me want to undergo a similar humongous surrender.
But not really, of course. Because surrender itself is bloody, hard work. What I really want is to live in the aftermath of surrender. That peaceful place where you’re finally okay with whatever happens to you or doesn’t. You have nothing left to lose because you’ve let it all go. No one can hurt your pride because there’s none left to protect.
Let’s be honest, though. Most of us experience only a handful of these kinds of huge surrenders in our lifetime. One of my biggest came in 2007 when I finally became willing to get help for my alcoholism.
Since then, it’s been a series of smaller but necessary surrenders. I say,necessary, because as much as I try to abandon myself entirely to God every morning—I tend to renegotiate as the day unfolds.
As some of you know from a previous post, God’s been encouraging me lately to “quit deeper.” At first, I thought this would look like something really big. A major surrender to rock my world.
Instead, it’s turning out to be a series of small relinquishments and capitulations: How can I let go here? What do I need to accept? What would giving up look like?
But maybe that’s okay. Maybe “quit deeper” happens one small shovel of surrender at a time. And maybe the gap between my best intentions and my ability to carry them out is part of God’s plan, too.
And it’s his grace that fills the gap.