Step Three – Sweet Surrender
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
Isaiah 55;1-2, Philippians 2:12-13, Matthew 7:7-8
A week ago Friday, Jim and I drove our electric car `Prayer E. Winkle’ (a Nissan Leaf) to Kelowna for its semi-annual check-up. While searching radio stations for the clearest CBC reception, I chanced upon a Christian radio program and when I heard these lyrics – I grabbed a pen and jotted them down. `This guy’s singing about taking the third step’, I said to Jim. Back home, I took what I had written and `googled’ it – and here, in part is what it says:
Never got anywhere By running away
Never learned anything Without a mistake
Never loved anyone By playing it safe
It’s a long way, but I’m right here now, so
Here goes nothing – Here goes everything
Gotta reach for something – Or you’ll fall for anything
Take a breath, take a step –
What comes next -God only knows -But here goes
song: Here Goes by Bebo Norman
This guy is steppin’ out in faith – here goes! But turning our will and our lives over to someone or something else can be well – terrifying!
I admit – the idea of surrender freaks me out in the deepest way.
In my mind – I remember scenes from documentaries and movies of a line of Jewish prisoners marching with their hands over their heads – a sign of surrender. I see them getting shot and falling into the shallow grave they have had to dig for themselves.
My hearts recoils when I remember the mocking, sarcastic voices of people whom I thought loved me – cut down my ideas, my explanations, my rights, and reduce me to tears.
My body remembers trying to learn how to swim, as a child. More precisely to float on my back, and how I struggled and fought, sure that lying still on top of the water would be the quickest way to drown. Surrender? No thanks!
I mentioned during step one about going to a post Easter clergy `retreat’ on addictions, including workaholism. The irony was that there was so much to learn about it, we never had any free time! However, all was not lost, as I had to face my fear of surrender. I came to understand it not as something forced on me that would humiliate or destroy me, but something I could offer, trusting I would fall into God’s loving embrace. That was a very different concept of surrender for me.
i’ve enjoyed a few trips since then to Halcyon Hot Springs. I thought about that falling into God’s loving embrace as I floated on my back, surrendering my body to the warm water, and the current that moved me around effortlessly, while snowflakes fell from the night sky onto my upturned face. It was blissful surrender.
It is much easier to surrender when you feel safe and loved. Most of us have had occasion not to feel safe and loved at some point in our life, and we like to be in control of things. We like to know how it’s all going to turn out, before we commit to anything. Rohr writes:
“…what makes so much religion so innocuous, ineffective, and even unexciting is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’ even in many people who go to church, temple or mosque. P 20
I have thought about this during this strange process of pre-election voting in the U.S. I find it distressing how many `good Christian folk’ are solidly behind Donald Trump. And I’m thinking, there’s a whole lot of people who go to church who can’t possibly trust their will and their lives to God – of they would not be voting for this man. Any religious group that promotes hatred, or justifies discrimination or violence against those not in their group, has not turned their lives and wills over to God, or Yahweh, or Allah – but serves their own will, their own ego.
Alcoholics Anonymous step three is Jesus’ step one. “If anyone wants to follow me, let him/her renounce himself/herself. Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and Matthew 16:4. Have we ever really hear that? It is clear in all these gospels. Renouncing the self. What could Jesus possibly mean or intend by such absolute and irresponsible language? P 21
Rohr suggests that Buddhists get this better than Jews or Christians – they understand “a radical surrendering of our will/ our ego, to `Another’ whom we trust more than ourselves.” It’s amazing how we can gloss over such a foundational renunciation – no wonder we feel conflicted in the church and in body, mind and heart!
Rohr suggests that “surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is the necessary path to liberation” p.18 I invite you to think of what kind of death in your personal life, work life, our life as a church, etc. would bring liberation to you? (E.g. the death of the `more is better’ mentality re: church attendance instead of what ministry can we do with what we have? How can we be faithful?
In closing, Rohr says, “We have been graced for a truly sweet surrender, if we can radically accept being radically accepted – for nothing! ‘Or grace would not be grace at all.’ (Romans 11:6) As St. Francis put it, when the heart is pure, “Love responds to Love alone” and has little to do with duty, obligation, requirements, or heroic anything. It’s easy to surrender when you know that nothing but Love and Mercy is on the other side.”P27
And thank God for love and mercy on the other side, because next week we are challenged with Step 4, which is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves! God help us! Amen.