>> Thursday, February 26, 2009
What does it mean to surrender? Does it mean that I should give up on myself, and on everything that I am, to wipe away all that has contributed to the person I have come to be, to throw up my hands and bend the will? Not exactly.
The distinction to be made between submission and surrender is this. When I submit, I become compliant. I relinquish control. And ultimately I deny who I am and fail to acknowledge that God has been, and remains alive and well, working in and through me, shaping my life, and gradually conforming me to the image of His Beloved Son, Jesus. Submission is co-dependent. I submit to avoid the pain of conflict and struggle. I submit to keep the peace. I submit in order that I don’t shake things up, make waves, or rock the boat.
Conversely, when I surrender, I retain the integrity of who I am as a person. I acknowledge that there is a greater Power, more benevolent than I, a skillful Guide who will direct me through humility to become greater than I had imagined I could ever be. The timeless words of Saint Paul echo forth: “when I am weak, then I am made strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10) When I am humbled, then I am exalted (1 Peter 5: 6-8). Through surrendering to God, I give permission to the Holy Spirit to work in and through me, to speak into my life and through my life, into the lives of others. To surrender myself to God is to embrace all that I am. Through this act of surrender, I learn to accept who I am, I gain a new depth of perspective on myself and on the person that I am becoming. I see myself in true context with greater clarity.
Oswald Chambers, the Scottish born minister and devotional writer of the early twentieth century noted a three-dimensional aspect of surrender: surrender for deliverance, surrender for devotion, and surrender for death. Each element is rooted in a surrender of the will throughout life. Surrender for deliverance provides the weary with rest. Surrender for devotion builds upon surrender for deliverance and is centered upon trusting in Christ’s abiding love to care for us as we yield our pride and self-centeredness to God. These both prepare us for ultimate surrender at death, the orientation of our lives as an “aspiration for unbroken communion with God.”
Interestingly, the word “surrender” does not appear throughout the course of Sacred Scripture. Instead a number of words that are often translated as “submit” do appear. The most prominent of these are the Hebrew words “anah” (meaning “to humble self”) and “raphas” (meaning “to stir up self”). These indicate that there is a dynamic aspect to surrender in the Biblical mindset. In the New Testament, Saint Paul uses the Greek work “hupotasso” frequently. This word means “to set in order under.” The author of Hebrews uses another term, “hupeiko” that literally translates as “to yield under.”
As we progress through this liturgical season of Lent, let us be ever mindful that surrendering to God is not a complacent act of submission, but an inspiring, invigorating and life-generating act of the will to draw us closer in relationship to God, to lead us toward greater unity with one another, and to nourish within us a greater harmony with our deepest selves.