The Art of Surrender

When I say the word surrender, what comes to mind? 

Someone throwing their hands up when they’re caught or threatened? Someone surrendering when they are being over powered – like in a wrestling match, or when they know they’ve been beaten at chess? Or maybe someone surrendering their life to death after a battle with an illness. 

Most often I think we conjure images of being overpowered, over come, defeated – of some force greater than us strong-arming us just because it can.  When our resources are gone, our strength depleted and we have no more fight in us – only then, at the end of our ability do we finally give in, cry Uncle!! – and surrender. 

But there is another sort of surrender. The surrender to Love. What comes to mind when you think of surrendering to Love? 

For me, at times in my life surrender has looked a lot like the pictures I mentioned before – that sense of being overpowered and having to finally give in. Sadly I think that is what so many of us do think about. Even when we think of surrendering to a God that we say is loving and faithful, kind and compassionate – even surrendering to a God that we know is good can be a little scary, because surrender requires vulnerability. But He will always be faithful to meet us there. With God’s invitation we always know we will be safe and loved as we lean into Him.

The image we see in our minds, the emotions we feel or the colors we associate with things are important to notice because they reveal what’s going on in our hearts. When we are in moments of deep pain, have to be able to identify what is under the intensity. That helps us know how to say out loud what we need – both to God and to those in our lives that want to walk with us through it.

In the last several weeks I have had to practice surrender in a close relationship. It has been absolutely brutal. Understanding what was going on under the intense pain of letting go helped me be able to move through the process without tearing the world down around me in anger, and not burning down the love we have shared, in my grief. Even if we know we are responding to what someone has said they need or want, honoring their wishes can still be a horribly difficult thing to do. And in the process of letting go of one of the closest relationships in my life, I have flailed against it like a toddler throwing a fit on the living room floor, vacillating between anger and deep sadness. But all the while I could hear the Holy Spirit whispering to me – surrender her to me. And when I heard Him say that, I got the strongest sense that He just might know what’s really going on here, and I can trust Him. He is not strong arming me, he isn’t a great big vindictive God up in some nebulous place getting his jollies out of seeing us in pain, requiring us to suffer before He is appeased. Rather, He is kind and compassionate, inviting us into a deeper place of intimacy and knowing, even through the painful and most hurt-filled moments of our lives.

The things we have to surrender most often have to do with how we interact with the people in our lives. Yes, there are things God asks of us that are only about what is inside of us, but more often than not, it will be in relation to another person. That’s what makes it so hard. We can only control what we do in life. I have no say so in what other people need or want, or what their limits are, I can only choose to honor their boundaries or not. And the choice to surrender the way I want things to be to honor what someone else wants…. well, let’s just say it ain’t easy – or fun. But I believe if we will get quiet enough to listen and notice what is going on inside, there are tools we have been given that will help us move through even the most excruciating moments.

So let’s practice doing just that. We’ll start with thinking about what it’s like to surrender to Love – because we always know that is a safe and good thing to do.

Close your eyes and ask the Holy Spirit to show you an image, or hi-light a thought. What does it look like to surrender to Love? Does it look like the image of being overpowered when you think of surrendering to God? Or does a different image come to mind? How does it feel? What is the image you see when you think of responding in surrender to the Spirit’s invitation to come closer? To let Love melt away fear? What does that look like?

Do you have an image? or a feeling? or maybe you think of it in a color. When you get an image or connect with how it feels, grab some paint, or drawing paper, pencils or markers and create an image, or write a poem, or write it out journal style.  Put on your favorite music, and practice art as an expression of worship and see what the Holy Spirit shows you. I promise, He will meet you there.

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