All About My Surrender
I knew this woman once who was extremely prideful and arrogant. She was also incredibly cynical, bitter, resentful, unforgiving, short-tempered, even spiteful. She was the type of person who could be your best friend. The sort to help you ďhide the bodiesĒ so long as you didnít ďcrossĒ her. Great to have on your side, but God help you if she wasnít. I didnít like her much. Hmm, to be honest, I didnít like her at all. There was one big problem though. I WAS that woman. And I took her along with me where ever I went. Psalm 88
I wanted to be rid of her. Quite literally. Unhappiness over my personality and emotional condition caused me great depression and overwhelming anxiety to the point of despair. I couldnít get rid of her no matter how hard I tried and no matter how good my intention. I was chained to her. No matter where I went there she (I) was. It got to the point I even tried a few times. Proverbs 15:32
I didnít start out this way. Sure, stuff happened. Who hasn't had ďstuffĒ happen? If there is one thing life has taught me, including in my current line of work, is that EVERYONE has had bad "stuff" happen to them over the course of their lives. So that was (and is) no excuse for the disposition and attitude I had back in those days. Romans 1:18-21
I started out just about like everyone else. Innocent. Full of hope, dreams, and promise. Yet somehow over the course of my life I lost all of those things. Losses like these donít happen in a vacuum though. And what we lose is almost always replaced by something else (at least in part if not whole). And those losses were replaced by negativity, anger, hurt, and hatred (mostly self directed).
When I was a child I was already one of those people that had to ďsee itĒ to believe it. If I couldn't see it, hear it, touch it, or feel it, it simply didnít exist. That included things like love and God. When my mother tried to teach me about God and His love for me I wanted to SEE God. Where was He? And if He loved me I wanted to FEEL it. So where was it?
The first time I set foot in a church as a small child I wanted to see God. My poor grandmother made the mistake of saying God was there in the very building itself. So I mistakenly concluded that the pastor at the pulpit was God. Once I got over my disappointment at how ordinary he looked, I introduced myself to him after service and asked him if he was in fact God. My grandmother was mortified. The point is I wanted to believe in God even as a small child. I wanted to believe in God and I wanted to KNOW Him. I wanted a relationship with my Creator. Matthew 18:2-5 Eventually I grasped the fairly simple concept that God was spirit John 4:25 and was everywhere Psalm 139:7-13 and that He loved me even if I didnít ďfeelĒ it Romans 5:8.
As time went on I became a Christian at the age of ten. And then tried desperately to do all the things I thought God wanted me to, and to not do the things I thought God didnít want me to. I thought that grace and relationship with God depended upon me being ďgood.Ē And I failed over and over and over and over again until finally as a teenager and later on as a young woman, I gave up altogether. Relationship with God and ďmaintainingĒ a good enough life to keep His grace was just too hard if not impossible. Romans 3:27-28 I couldnít do it and I had noticed not many others seemed to be able to do it either even though there were times they certainly liked to point fingers at my failings all while ignoring their own. Isaiah 65:2-5 & Luke 18:9-14 The only difference between them and me (or so I judged) was that I wasnít going to pretend to be something I wasn't. It was hard and in my mind pointless to try and live up to God's standards so why try and why pretend that I was trying?
So eventually after my continual failures to live up to ďgodlyĒ standards and after seeing so many other ďgodlyĒ people do the same (yet judge others like me for those same failings), I left the Church altogether. I wasnít done with God per se. But I was done striving to do the "impossible" and I sure as heck wasnít going to live some lie that I could and that I was. Pretending took too much of my energy. Did I mention I was lazy too?
So life went on. And after I turned my back on the Church and ďorganized religionĒ I eventually fell deeper and deeper into cynicism, bitterness, and even despair. There was no comfort to be had in ďorganized religionĒ for me and that got mixed up with how I viewed God Himself. I didnít see love or comfort there either. And I ran. I turned to unhealthy relationships, associations, habits, and attitudes. Romans 1:21-23
This went on until I was in my late 30ís and by this point I was a professed Noahide bordering on agnostic. Then one night (November 2007) while smoking a cigarette standing out on my patio looking up at a star lit sky feeling lonely and worthless, I cried out to God. ďGod if Youíre real and You really want some sort of relationship with me I put it back on You. If You exist and You made me and yet Iíve failed You and disappointed You itís Your fault. Iíve tried and tried to know You and do it Your way and itís NEVER worked out. So this time, I put the ball in Your court. You want me? Then come and get me. I'm all Yours.Ē I then promptly stormed off back into my house.
Two weeks (December 2007) later I was standing in a Church having attended a school choir performance for my son, bawling my eyes out as we sang Silent Night. I had missed God so much. I told Him so in my head as we sang. He responded, ďIíve missed you too.Ē The next thing I knew, after over a decade of never going to Church, I found myself attending a Sunday morning service. ďIím going to give this one more shot. This is my last chance. And this time Lord, letís do it Your way, not mine and not in the way that the so-called Church or other people think or say I should.Ē
Funny. Thatís what God had wanted from me all along: absolute surrender to Him. Surrender that included letting Him dictate the relationship and work in me to learn the doís and the do notís and to trust Him to give me the wisdom, strength, and endurance to carry that knowledge through. Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 10:38-39, & Romans 12:1
I didnít get that as a child or a young woman in Christ. I thought after the Sinnerís Prayer I now had a list of do's and doníts to follow and that to follow them I needed to go to Church a few times a week, read the Bible an hour or so every day, pray a half-hour or so every day in the morning and at night, and that somehow by doing all of that Iíd soak up Godís wisdom, love, and power like some sponge and then be able coast through life conquering all temptation and sin as it crossed my path.
Note: we NEVER coast through life. Life is hard at times. Itís a series of ups and downs. John 16:33 & Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 In fact, not two weeks after giving my life back to the Lord all heck broke out in my life and into nearly all the lives around me. Nearly three years of it! Thatís when I learned that even going to Church EVERY day, and praying a ďlong timeĒ ONCE or TWICE a day, and reading the Bible one time a day even for an hour or more is NOT ENOUGH to get through life pain free even in the best of times or to experience radical spiritual transformation and a deeply intimate relationship with God. Psalm 1:1-2, Psalm 119:15, Colossians 4:2, I Thessalonians 5:16-19
Through those years of constant difficulties I had to learn that in order to transform and experience a true renewing of the mind I had to approach life like a child. Mark 10:15 & Luke 18:17 I had to start all over again as if I knew nothing and had to learn it for the first time and to develop a dependency on the Holy Spirit to guide me, counsel me, discipline me, encourage me, comfort me, and more. John 14:16-17, John 16:13-14, John 14:26, Romans 8:26-27, Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24-25, & Romans 8:3-9
The thing is, we are formed (first as children) through our relationships with parental figures. We grow into who we are (in most ways) by our upbringing. Proverbs 22:6 Then we are further formed (in either good or bad ways) through our teen years and throughout all of our adult years by our peers (which is why good parents are greatly concerned with the people their teens choose to associate with). Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Proverbs 27:17, & Proverbs 1:8-19 So if I wanted to be TRANSFORMED into Christís likeness I needed to have a sincere and all encompassing relationship with Him by means of His Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, & Acts 3:19 I had to have constant communion with Him everywhere I went and in everything I did with a willingness to listen and learn. Even if all I could muster up on a drive in the traffic jam was, ďLord help me be patient. Be with me. Remind me that You are bigger than a traffic jam. You do use all things for the good for those who believe in You. Even this traffic jam, whether I can SEE it or not. There might be a GOOD reason I'm stuck here and so long as I arrive safely, that's all that matters. So please give me faith, wisdom, love, and did I mention patience?Ē
It took several years of walking in the wilderness after that initial surrender nearly four years ago to learn what relationship with God really is and all it entails. It can be summed up like this:
Absolute surrender (selling out to and for Christ). Luke 9:23 God is a jealous God and wants us to only worship and serve Him. Exodus 20:3-5 And he wants this because that is what He created us for and that is the only way we can be happy. It is what is BEST for us. Luke 4:8, Psalm 102:18-22, & Psalm 100:1-3, So each and every day, sometimes on a moment by moment basis, I must continually do this. I must surrender my thoughts, feelings, attitudes, desires, opinions, etc., to God. I must also surrender my job, my relationship with others, my dreams, my habits, my WILL. The fact is, a person canít have one foot in the world and one in Godís will. Christianity only ďworksĒ once a person has sincerely and thoroughly turned over his or her life to Christ. We can only serve ONE master. Matthew 6:24 & Joshua 24:13-16
Love. I must love God with all my heart, my mind, my spirit, and my strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 & Matthew 22:37 Without loving Him I cannot truly believe in Him, trust in Him, and fully surrender to Him, and that means I cannot effectively serve Him either. Now, by loving I am not speaking of the mere emotion. Emotions are fleeting and often deceitful. After all, have we not all be ďin-loveĒ in our youths and realized uh, no? No, by love I mean the heartfelt choice to spend time with Him in prayer and in conversation and in study of His word as much as humanly possible. LOVE IS ACTION, not just a feeling. John 14:15, I John 3:18, & Romans 3:8-10 We show love when we talk with Him even as we drive, shop, work, or speak with others. We show love for Him by reading, listening to, discussing, thinking on, and contemplating His word to us as often as possible, in all ways possible. By doing things for Him by serving others each and every time the opportunity presents itself. ďLord, allow me to bless You today by blessing others and to be blessed by You directly and through others.Ē
Thatís it. Thatís all. So simple. Two things. Surrender. Love. Surrender TO love, God's love. Love OF God, love FROM God, love OF others, love FROM others.
Note that I havenít mentioned the specifics of some of the ďthingsĒ that happened to me or that I did or didnít do in my past. The reason for this is that it isnít important. No one knows how Moses grew up in the Pharaohís household or spent his 40 years on the run and eventual life in Jethro's household as a shepherd. No one knows what Peter or Paulís lives were like before Christ. No one even knows much about Christís own life before He finally came to the time He was called to do His ministry. For all people, life has its good and its bad. Whatís important is the moment of salvation and continuing process of redemption in our lives after we receive salvation. Our lives truly don't begin until we are saved.
Today I know things I didnít know back then before I finally experienced true salvation. One thing I learned is how diverse the lies of Satan are. Here are a few: "I'm not good enough." "I'll never be good enough." "I can't take on any sort of ministry because I'm not good enough yet." "He/she's not good enough." "He/she will never be good enough." "He/she shouldn't do that right now because they aren't good enough yet." That's just to name a few. 1 Peter 5:8, John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 4:4, & 2 Corinthians 11:3
The thing is, no one elseís opinion (good or bad) of me (or you) matters. Only God's does. God loves me (and you) and thatís more than good enough. Conversely, my (and your) opinions of others isn't worth anything either. Only Godís counts and God loves you and me more than we can possibly imagine. Ephesians 3:16-19, Ephesians 2:4-5, & John 3:16
I now truly know that I control nothing, only God does. Proverbs 16:9 So I donít worry about things I canít fix as much as I used to. If it needs fixing God will fix it in His own way and in His own time. So I just turn over issues and situations that are negative to God in prayer and remain open to His will on what (if anything) I need to do. Matthew 6:25-30
I also know that itís impossible to love anyone unless I truly forgive them and stop keeping score. I also learned that I canít forgive others and stop keeping score on them if I donít forgive myself first and stop keeping score on myself. For if I donít forgive myself or others and I keep score on everybody Iím playing God. Without love I canít be the person God wants me to be. I canít be wise, honest, or godly and therefore God won't use me to do His great work. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
I know that Satan uses all kinds of inventive lies to create a barrier between God and me as well as other people ALL the time at every minute of every day, but if I remember those previous chapters in my life I can avoid many of those traps he sets for me and those around me. The instant I start to "remember" "stuff" people have done or I have done I must reject those thoughts and whatever feelings that come with them and then call on the Holy Spirit to help me focus on the good things about myself or the person (or people) that have come to mind in a negative or painful way.
Of course Iím not "good enough" and neither are you. Love, especially God's love, is never predicated on whether its deserved or not. So I don't have to worry that God wonít use me or anyone else on the basis of human defined merit. Iím so glad Abraham, David, Peter, et. al., didnít fall for those lies! Iím not going to either and neither should you!
Another thing Iíve learned is that the family unit is the building block of the Church. Without a unified loving family my (and your) individual calling will be more difficult. I must minister to my husband, children, parents, siblings, etc., first and then go out into the world and share the gospel. If you've just been saved you already have a ministry. Your family. Love them and help take care of them. Pray for them, encourage them, and when opportunities arise to share the gospel share it (don't cram it down their throats, share it when prompted by the Holy Spirit). Acts 16:30-33 & Colossians 3:18-20
Something else Iíve also learned that you can minister in all sorts of ways. Itís not just preaching and teaching in public minsitry (i.e., Church). It can be cleaning toilets in a bus station and doing it with joy and gusto. God respects, rejoices, and appreciates EVERYTHING we do for Him no matter how ďbigĒ or ďsmall.Ē Colossians 3:17 And we donít have to be ďperfectĒ doing it either. We just need to be willing to do the best we can with dependency on the Holy Spirit. God will perfect us as we go forth, but only if we go forth to begin with!! Ephesians 4:11-16, I wasn't and am still not a perfect parent. I became a parent when my children were born and have improved as the years have gone on through experience. I didn't wait for parenting skills to magically appear in me over night before having children. In the same way, I can only develop and grow in ministry for Him if I step out in faith and trust Him to develop me and guide me as I go along. No one became great for God by just sitting around and waiting for some burning bush. Even Moses was out doing something: tending sheep! God calls on the willing, not the ďbest.Ē Though we may need to be reminded to be willing like Moses had to be on more than one occasion.
In realizing all these things I no longer feel compelled to judge OTHER people as they serve or don't serve (at least not as often as I used to). By realizing I donít need to be perfect, I know that no one else does either. After all, who am I to judge another manís servant, much less Godís? Romans 14:4
God doesnít keep score like some judge in the Olympics. Nor should I. God doesnít keep track of my wrongs or other Believerís wrongs. Neither should I. God wants me ďholyĒ in the sense that Iím set apart just for Him and His purposes, perfection will come as I go and when I finally die to this world and enter the next one. Ditto for everyone else who believes in His Son Jesus Christ. Hebrews 8:10-13 & Isaiah 43:25
I can love God and trust Him fully now that Iíve gone through the wilderness and come through wiser, spiritually stronger, and certain that no matter what happens to me or those around me, or how I (or others) might stumble along the way, that God is with me disciplining me, encouraging me, teaching me, blessing me, forming me, and rejoicing over me and that once Iím through a wilderness experience, Iíll be better able to serve Him by serving others using my experiences (good and bad) in doing so. Romans 8:28
Again, I donít need to be perfect, just willing. I donít need to be wonderful per se, just surrendered. I donít need to be ďhappy,Ē just rejoicing (actively thankful and at peace and in praise of God) in all things. Thatís it. I donít need to know the ďwhysĒ if I truly trust Him. I canít be at peace and rejoice if I HAVE to know why. God knows why, He's in control, He has a plan, and He's allowed me some measure in it. Thatís good enough for me. Job 42:1-3
There is no big mystery about how to change. We CANíT change. At least, we can't using our own efforts. God changes us. And He changes us through our relationship with Him and with others. He changes us through life circumstances. The ďgood,Ē the ďbad,Ē and the ďuglyĒ both of our own making and others. The closer we draw to God the more Christ-like we become. All those "do's" and "don'ts" become natural to us, a second nature. Our NEW nature.
Finally, I learned that He also wants me to stop obsessing with this temporary existence, the things in this life, this world, and start thinking about eternity and about His Son Jesus. He wants me to focus on and be excited about my heavenly mansion (home) and my heavenly purpose (serving and praising God). John 14:1-3 Traffic jams, unfair bosses, nagging spouses, screaming kids, busted pipes, unforeseen bills, etc., do not matter in the view of the eternal promises God has made to us and that He will keep. Itís a lot easier to trust God and not worry, get anxious, frustrated, even angry once we realize that there is a lot better ahead of us. That the day will come when weíll be in Godís presence fully healed, restored, perfect and happy FOREVER. The more that becomes our reality, the easier it gets to not let the temporal things of this world tempt us, annoy us, or affect us in any negative way. Hebrews 12:1-3 & Colossians 3:2
If my marriage isnít going well perhaps itís because Iíve made my husband or marriage an idol. Or perhaps Iím not making my spouse important enough to love him like I should with Godís grace. LOVE DOES NOT KEEP SCORE. Besides, if Iím focusing on the eternal promise I know my marital issues pale in comparison to an eternity spent in worshipping God and I trust God to give me the wisdom and guidance to be the wife my husband needs me to be and I have the faith that things will change for the better.
If my finances are a mess perhaps Iím a poor steward and not recognizing itís Godís money, not MINE. I need to tithe, pay my bills ON TIME, give to those in need as much as I can afford, and not spend it impulsively on fleshly things. Besides, if I remember in eternity Iíll have a heavenly mansion, I canít stand being a tad bit "poor" by worldly standards for a mere few decades.
If my job is too stressful perhaps Iím not praying while Iím at work for the Holy Spiritís guidance, wisdom, and patience. Perhaps I'm not being as diligent and joyful a worker as I ought to be. Or perhaps Iím not doing the work Iím supposed to in the first place and I need to surrender my career to God. Besides, in eternity Iíll be happily serving God with praise and worship. I can stand a few decades of whatever Iím working on now.
If my kids are driving me nuts perhaps itís because they are modeling my own sinful attitudes or itís because Iím not taking enough time to spend with them teaching them Godís word or maybe itís just because I havenít surrendered them and their personalities to God (after all, He made them) and I need to trust Heíll transform them too like He did me. Besides, Iíll have all eternity to enjoy my kids in perfection. I can be patient with them in the now.
If my car keeps breaking down perhaps I need to take better care of it, or take the bus for a while because God wants me sharing His Son on the bus line with other passengers, or perhaps He wants me to have a bigger car so I can take a neighbor or two to Church. Besides, I wonít need a car for transportation in the afterlife. Maybe Iíll just blink or fly where I need to go then, but for now, I can hoof it, take a bus, or car pool!
All I have to remember is to keep surrendering, loving, trusting, and obeying God through all of it knowing itís for my own good and the good of everyone around me. And then remember that one day before I know it, Iíll be in His presence forever!
Here are some other things I learned: in all difficulties we are either being tempered (remodeled and reshaped) or disciplined (because something is too important or not important enough) Hebrews 12:4-12. We must learn to be content and at peace as things are in the NOW or we will never be content no matter what is going on, for the better or the worse. Philippians 4:11 Contentment can only come when we learn to surrender and truly trust in the Lord. If something is keeping you awake at night it has become your master. If something is causing you continual stress, worry, or frustration then you aren't surrendering it to God and you are its slave. Surrender to God is not enslavement, but not surrendering to Him certainly is. True freedom is becoming God's slave and not the slave of a job, a relationship, an organization, a habit, material things, etc. You are programed to serve even if it's your needs or wants. Only in serving God and God alone will you ever know peace.
I've also learned that even peace is a choice we make! If you donít learn to be at peace and rejoice at this moment, how can you when it gets harder? Haha. You just can't. The fact is, even if things get better if we are discontent NOW we will be discontent LATER too. We must learn to be content with the way things are in the present so long as we are in relationship with Christ. Hebrews 13:5
If not itís sort of like the woman who says, ďMy husband is a drinker. I wish heíd stop drinking.Ē Then when he does she says, ďWell now I wish heíd become a Christian. Heís still going to hell.Ē Then when he does she says, ďWell I wish heíd develop more spiritually. Heís still struggling over simple concepts and going so slow if not backwards!Ē Then when he matures and he moves up in the Church she says, ďWait, why does HE get that ministry? Iíve been in Church MY WHOLE LIFE and heís only been in Church these past THREE YEARS and yet no one has ever asked ME to teach or lead anything! Thatís not fair!!!Ē Just surrender. Let God be God. Think of our eternal promises. Only then will discontentment vanish and you will experience peace along with all the blessings God has promised believers in the here and now.
In a nutshell, Christianity didnít fail me. My CONCEPT of it did. God or the Church didnít let me down. My IDEAS and OPINIONS of it did. Godís ways werenít impossible. My PRIDE in trying to do them MY WAY was what made life by God's standards impossible. Only GODíS way of doing things works. Only trusting in God and learning to depend on Him can my faith succeed. Isaiah 55:9, Psalm 28:8, & Zechariah 4:6 And if you've "tried" Christianity and it "failed" you I can promise you that it wasn't THE faith that failed you, it was YOUR PERSONAL brand of faith that failed. However, it's still not too late and you can still come home. All is not lost.
Surrender. Love. Show willingness. Demonstrate obedience. Always trust. Constantly rejoice. It's all very simple. Yet for prideful man, so very difficult.
I had to let my concepts and ideas about God and His ways die. John 3:30 They had to let me down so that I could finally say, ďLord, not MY way or the worldís way, but YOUR way.Ē ďLord, Iím not worthy to be Your child, but at least make me Your servant.Ē Luke 15:21
And that is how I went from point A, a young child desperate to love God and be loved, to point B, a cynical, faithless, defiant, and bitter sinner, to point C, someone who loves God with all her heart and wants to do nothing more than serve Him in any way He asks of me. Whether that is by being a simple housewife and mother, or something out in the world in addition to those things. No matter how ďbigĒ or how ďsmall,Ē nothing is more grand than just being in a sincere and loving relationship with Jesus and continually surrendering to Godís will day in and day out. All I had to do was finally let (everyone and everything) go and let God.
Sure I still fall down. Some days I fall down A LOT and occasionally I fall down REALLY HARD. Especially after working a long and hard day, then driving home in crazy traffic to an often chaotic household. Sure I still get grumpy or even ill-tempered. I still lapse into judgment or gossip in weak moments when I haven't been praying inside or reflecting on scripture. However, this happens less and less now and when it does I realize it immediately and repent as soon as I catch myself. Temptation may yet abound, but Iím learning day by day to keep plugged into the Holy Spirit through prayer, meditating on Scripture, and praising in song (even if only in my brain) to overcome it. And now when I fall down I donít get defiant (it's not MY fault God, YOU made me this way!), or slink off in shame (I'm a lowly worm, God can't use me now). Instead I rush back into Godís arms and repent knowing Heís already forgiven me and then examine my failing as an OPPORTUNITY to learn and grow and become more Christ-like. Thatís all God wants. A relationship WE care about enough to nurture and to grow from no matter what happens or how WE mess up. Matthew 3:8 & 1 John 1:9
In learning all these things (and it wasn't over night, it took a long time) I experienced the true meaning of salvation and learned the true nature of what it means to be a Christian. I was saved from eternal death, yes. I was also saved from myself. I was saved from that awful, negative, bitter, jaded, paranoid, gossipy, judgmental, spiteful person I loathed every time I looked in the mirror. As I said earlier, the things we lose are almost always replaced. Each facet of that old self I lost was replaced by a new one. Distrust became trust. Judgment became acceptance. Hatred became love. Discontentment became satisfaction. Turmoil became peace. And so on.
God loves me. God loves YOU too. So much so He sent His Son to die so that you could have a personal, intimate, and loving relationship with Him no matter what you may have done and no matter what you fall into in the future. John 3:16 To not believe this or to believe any less than that is to believe a lie. And it is to short change yourself from a life that is full, blessed, and redemptive. This life is practice for eternity. Itís getting you ready for one existence or another. You get to choose where your eternity is going to be. God desperately wants you to spend it with Him. He wants what is best for you even if it means letting the sum of your decisions bring you suffering because it isnít good for you or those in your life you care about (this is discipline). Hebrews 12:4-6 He wants you satisfied, calm, at peace, and rejoicing. Philippians 4:4 The only way to have that is to surrender to Him and love Him and let Him love you. And all you have to do is finally surrender and let go of all the things that distances you from Him one day at a time, moment by moment, with His help (by means of the Holy Spirit). Will you? Will you finally let go and let God?