It has been quite a long time since I have written anything here. In the craziness and chaos of senior year, taking time to do things like write blog posts is continually pushed to the background.
However, after a spirited discussion with my wonderful roommates at the Foundry, I came to a very stark conclusion. We, as 21st century, western civilization Christians, have no clue what it means to surrender.
Let me explain the background here. As I move towards the real world, applying for jobs and medical schools and transitioning into being an adult, the most common refrain I hear is something to the effect of Proverbs 3:6, which says,
“in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
And you know what, that didn’t sit too well with me for some reason. No matter how I went about trying to surrender my dreams and desires to God, I was continually caught in the trap of forgetting how desperately the world around me needs the love that I have been so blessed to find. So I started processing and searching, and I have realized something very clear. I specifically have no clue what it means to surrender.
Let me explain. For much of my life, I feel like I have been taught a specific mode of surrender by the church. In graphic form:
I think the way that the church has talked about surrender is a way to move from the world closer to Christ. As you leave the world behind and enter into the sphere of Christianity, you move closer and closer to God, and that is the absolute goal. The act of giving one’s life to Jesus is the first step in crossing the fence that exists between Christians and the World, and from there, you are constantly attempting to surrender even further to reach God closer and closer.
And that all looks fine from the outset. There is no problem in wanting to be closer to God. By no means am I advocating that you should not move into a more intimate relationship with God.
However, I do not believe that is what true surrender is.
The more I look and read, the more I realize how dangerous that concept of surrender is. In this view of surrender, you are attempting to separate yourself from the world, and by looking in at God, you are constantly only seeing the people who are close to God, or closer to God than you are. The steps that you take ask you to deny the world around you, and focus on God and God alone. This view of surrender asks you to surrender humanity for God.
And that really does not sit well with me. As I am looking to go into the medical field, (but more importantly, as a human), I have noticed that I see God in the actions and words of all those around me. I see God in the smiles people give each other, the hugs that bring comfort, the selfless acts of kindness to those that need it, a sacrifice that is completely undeserved. I see God in the faces of those that bring mercy, love, peace and joy. I see God in the midst of a world that is forever tainted by sin.
So tonight, through conversations with my brothers at the Foundry, I realized that this view of surrender is wrong. See I think this view of surrender actually puts ourselves and our works at the center of our motivations by continually asking for more and more surrender to get closer to God. God does not exist separate from sin. God inherently exists in a world that has fallen. In fact, we can only survive in this world because of God’s willingness to step into a sinful world and look outwards towards those that are reaching towards Him.
God does not view surrender in the way that I think that the western Church teaches what it means to surrender. Surrender does not mean that driving towards God is what will make your paths what you want them to be, surrender means accepting the path that Jesus puts you on. Surrender does not mean denying the world, but rather relying on God’s love to reach out to a world that is as broken as you are. Surrender does not mean that the way to transform our minds is to separate ourselves from the patterns of this world, surrender means having our minds transformed before we enter our world.
Surrender means placing God at your center and letting all else go.
Thus, I think surrender instead looks something like this.
Our surrender is not moving closer to God and away from others. Our surrender is moving towards others with God at our center. Our surrender is moving into our broken, sinful world, with the expectation of God shining his light through us in whatever way he deems fit. Our surrender is a path towards a world of pain, bitterness, emptiness, hurt, and darkness, not of comfort as we get closer and closer to God.
Surrender is not easy. Surrender asks us to deny our inherent desire to stay away from pain, and to show and demonstrate God’s love who desperately need it. Our goal is not to surround ourselves with lots of people who will remind us of how Christian we are, but rather run headstrong into the world with a heart full of Christ.
So what does this look like?
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks us to live as the church of Acts, seeing needs and meeting them to the best of our abilities not because it will bring us closer to God, but because God is bleeding out of us.
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks us to continually take chances on loving the world around us, giving time, energy, and resources to our world not because it fulfills our tithing requirements or makes us feel good, but because God is overflowing in our lives.
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks me to love the world no matter where I end up, instead of sitting on my haunches and “surrendering” my future to the Lord (while still keeping my fingers crossed that he sends me to medical school).
Look, I am not saying that we should not seek to surrender our lives for the sake of the Gospel. I am saying that we need to revolutionize how we talk about surrendering so we can surrender our lives while being deeply rooted in Jesus instead of surrendering to move forward in the circle around Jesus.
The Gospel calls us to surrender. Matthew 16:24 says,
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus walked into a sinful world with God purely at his heart, ready to love the world around Him in the greatest way possible.
To me, following that looks a lot like a brand new kind of surrender.