I'm thinking about the concept of surrender. Last Sunday at service, my Pastor asked, "Are you willing to surrender your dreams and your vision for your life to God?" My automatic response is "yes", but then I ask myself, "Do I really understand what that means? The thing that has always confused me about that is that in one breath he is teaching that God has ordained me for a purpose, and that I must - in faith - flatten the mountain in my life that is driving me back into complacency so that I can fulfill God's calling on my life. Then, I am encouraged to surrender my vision to God. But how can I surrender and forge ahead at the same time?
My classic idea of surrender has included me hiding in some kind of a spiritual foxhole, raising a white flag and telling God, "I give up. You win." Then I just spend the rest of my life trying to stay out of the way and out of trouble, treating my desires for my life as though they are a character defect that I will "get over" eventually. But that sounds like quitting to me. So people who surrender are quitters, right? And does God give us dreams as some kind of a twisted test, just to see if we will lay them down and walk away?
Sounds kinda mean.
As usual, when I have a belief about God that makes Him seem anything but wholly good and totally lovely, I've probably got my wires crossed.
Resolving the Conflict
Instead of trying to figure out how a loving God could behave in an unloving way, I need to instead look at my idea of what surrender really means and find out where I've gone wrong.
One definition of "surrender" in my concordance says it is "to give or deliver up possession of," and then "to yield to the power of another." So to surrender my dreams and visions doesn't mean that I give them up and let them die. Rather, it means that I recognize that my dreams don't belong to me; they belong to God to be used according to His purposes. I don't own my life. I didn't give it to myself and I don't get to keep it for myself.
I don't get to decide if, when, or how my vision for my life will manifest. It's not my gig. My job is to listen for guidance, to make good choices, to do what I can and as much as I can, all while being grateful and loving others, but to always remember that the dream belongs to God. The parable of talents addresses this, too, in a new way. When the master presents a servant with talents to invest, he's not giving them to him. He's entrusting him. In the same way that we are stewards with our money, we are stewards with our dreams and talents.
That's a big blow if you are into self-actualization. You can set your sights on a goal, and you can take steps toward it, but none of us can assure any future outcome, because none of us has control over the world around us or the people in it.
The real secret
You mean, I can't be anything I want? I can't tell you how many years I've wasted trusting in people and "teachers" who said that I could. Talk about the "opiate of the masses" - it's not religion, as Karl Marx claimed; it's a belief in self-sufficiency.
In another definition surrender is, "to yield to any influence, emotion, passion, or power." Like when you surrender to tears, or grief, or laughter, or anger. This kind of surrender could be good, or bad, depending on what it is you are surrendering to. I know we've all had the experience of giving into anger or sorrow. And we all know what it's like to give into laughter. We love surrendering to joy, but not to sorrow. Of course.
The thing about that kind of surrender is that we can barely help it. We say that sorrow overcame us, or that we tried not to laugh, but we couldn't help it. That indicates an overwhelming influence of emotion or power. Something so much bigger than us that we have no choice but to yield to it.
Being swept away
My new understanding of surrendering to God is to recognize that my life and everything in it are His, that I can't achieve or my fulfill my dreams or my calling under my own power and authority, so I must rely on His power, and respond to His authority when it comes to making decisions and taking action.
But it also means I have the extreme privilege of opening myself to the passion and and power of God, so that I am carried off by His love, care, and guidance. When I am truly surrendered, I can't help but be swept away.