The surrendering of our will and our lives.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” -Thomas Merton
The culture around us seems to be becoming more and more frantic and fear-bound. Excessive striving and driven-ness is damaging to our health, our families, and our inner lives.
Most of us put enormous energy into remaining in control of our own private lives. The idea of surrendering control to anyone, let alone God, can be enormously threatening. Yet the act of surrender can be the most healing step that we may ever take.
The heart of spirituality, in fact, is surrendering our will and lives to God who really cares for us. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Such a surrender can be our choice one day at a time. Either we commit our lives daily into God’s hands, or we commit our lives into our own hands. Either God ends up at the center of our lives, or our self ends up at the centre. There is no greater disease than finding one’s self at the center, the essence of self-centeredness.
Self-centeredness can be rather like bad breath or body odor. Everyone else seems to know about it about you before you realize it yourself.
Is it any wonder that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches it’s members that the first step to sanity is to admit that one is powerless over ones problems and that our lives have become unmanageable? This admission of powerlessness is very humbling to the ego. It is a real death to our illusions of grandiosity and immortality. The 3rd Step to sanity in A.A. is making a decision to turn one’s will and life over to the care of God. The heart of Step 3 is ‘Letting Go and Letting God’.
The A.A. Big Book has a passion for honesty as a key to sanity and sobriety. In one section, it ironically comments that blaming others and anger is a luxury that alcoholics cannot afford. You cannot indulge bitterness and finger-pointing and stay sober. The truth, of course, is that none of us can indulge self-centered blaming of others, and stay healthy. Bitterness always eats the bitter person alive.
Why is it so hard to let go and let God? Why does our ego so often fight self-surrender with all its might? Perhaps it is because self-surrender is choosing to die to the false self, the self-centered way of living, that the true self might live for the sake of others. Fears, worries, anxieties, and resentments all have roots in the unsurrendered self.
Letting go is to surrender to God’s love. Letting go is to align ourselves with God’s healing peace in our lives. Letting go is learning to stop and smell the coffee, enjoy the sunsets, rejoice in our children. Letting go is all about learning to slow down in our pressure-cooker world. Dr. E. Stanley Jones once said that “the surrendered are quietly creative and actually produce twice as much as the unsurrendered with all their fussy activity.” Maybe you’ve heard of the expression: ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder get’.
Or as Bob Dylan once sung, ‘you gotta serve somebody…It may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody’. The choice is ours one day at a time. We may choose to surrender to fear, to pride, to money, to resentment, to popularity, or we can choose to surrender to God who really cares for us.