The new year (and new decade) have arrived. People everywhere are making resolutions to do more of things and less of things and most of all it seems, striving to let go and be more present with their family and friends. I see the words typed neatly on the screen…but will actions follow?
Isn’t it strange that so many of us want to lighten our load…to have one less thing on our plate…to feel less weight on our shoulders…yet we don’t want to lay anything down? Almost like as long as we have a slight grasp (or tight hold in some cases) that we will be able to control the various situations in our lives, even though that longing for control causes stress along with physical and mental exhaustion in many cases? Thereby keeping us from being present and enjoying life to the fullest?
I recently read Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly, a book about the events leading up to the assassination of President Lincoln at the end of the Civil War. The two main players in the war were General Robert E. Lee from the South, and General Ulysses S. Grant from the North. When all of Lee’s resources and soldiers had been depleted…when he realized there was no means of escape…and when he saw that there was nothing he could do to continue on, he begrudgingly chose to surrender to General Grant. He dressed in his finest uniform with a fancy sword at his side and prepared to admit defeat. He looked like the picture of confidence, but weighing heavy on his mind were the terms of the surrender…and how they would affect his men.
However, as General Lee read the words written by Grant to end the war, all worry subsided. To quote O’Reilly, “the terms were remarkable in their lenience.” Grant accepted the Confederacy’s surrender. Lee’s men were to lay down their guns, go home, and focus on rebuilding the nation together. That was it.
Surrender means to “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” Cease resistance. And submit. I couldn’t help but think how the Civil War scenario mirrored the act of surrendering to the Lord and His will, and how often I fail at this task. Surrender somehow shows weakness or lack of purpose to some. But as a follower of Jesus, surrendering brings life, y’all.
Mercy was evident in the case of Grant vs. Lee. And mercy waits for all of us who are willing to lay down what we are carrying, go home to the Lord with empty hands, and focus on loving, serving, and rebuilding lives with the Lord’s strength and guidance.
The more I thought about the definition of surrender, I had to dig deeper into what it really means in relation to the Lord in my own life. So here are a few things I wanted to share as we enter this new year, new decade, and hopefully new season of surrender in our lives:
1. We must “cease resistance,” but what does that really mean?
Cease means to “bring to an end.” That’s easy enough. If we cease, we stop. We don’t allow a certain action to continue. But what about the word resistance?
Resistance is defined as “refusal to accept or comply with something” or “an attempt to prevent something by action or arguing.” Ha! I feel like I am in the test tube of resistance these days. Between an almost teenager, a ten year old, and a preschooler, my days are made of refusals to comply and attempts to prevent something by arguing. (I really need a laughing with tears emoji here). If you have children or cranky co-workers or work with the public in any way, shape, or form, you can empathize! And unfortunately, I know it when I see it, because I am guilty of doing the same thing.
So, we have to “bring to an end the refusal to accept or comply” with what the Lord is leading us to do in our lives (in other words, not act like our tweenagers or preschoolers when they just want their way:). When we know He is showing us the path to follow (but we want to choose another), when we hear Him telling us to do something (and we pretend we’re not listening), or when we see someone He has clearly put in our path to minister to (but we are afraid), we must cling to His promises and choose to be obedient and accept His will above our own. (John 14:15)
2. Our surrender is to “an enemy or opponent,” but does that really apply to God?
I would imagine that very few of us think of God as an enemy. But what about an opponent? Many of us might say no…we’re not playing against God. But aren’t we? I know I am many days. It’s the game of self vs. Jesus. And unfortunately, there are days I seem to win, only to find out later that the consequences of putting myself first are harder on my heart in the long run. The challenge is to resist self, so that we can then comply with the Lord’s will instead of our own. It’s very convicting to think about…(John 3:30)
3. Confronting that very difficult phrase “submit to authority.”
Submit is one of the most controversial words you can say from the world’s perspective. It implies weakness. And we women are supposed to be strong and independent. What those who balk against submission fail to remember, though, is that submission is a choice. I’m actively putting my wants and needs aside, at least for a time, because I humbly believe that there is one who knows better than me and has my best interest in mind. And I know that Jesus does.
But isn’t it interesting that the word “authority” seems to be becoming a negative word as well? All authority figures used to be respected and revered. Policemen, teachers, our military, and our President. But more and more, the world wants us to voice our own wants and needs and opinions, and put them first, above rules or boundaries or even the sacredness of life. But above all of those, God has ultimate authority, and we will all answer to Him one day. Therefore, I choose to yield, or give way, to His way.
In submitting to the Lord’s authority we find the blessing of humility, the rest we long for, and the safety He promises. (1 Peter 5:6, Psalm 139:5, Psalm 4:8)
Oh, y’all. The mercy in surrender is the sacrifice of self. Only when He becomes greater, and we become less, can we truly lay it all down.
May we all lay our empty palms face up, with ears that long to hear, and eyes that long to see, expectantly waiting for all the Lord will do when we surrender to Him. Happy New Year, yall.
P.S. I have surrendered to the Lord many times. Laying down all that I was carrying…only to pick it back up again not too long after. But even in my fear and stubbornness, the Lord calls me back to try again. If you have done the same thing don’t stop trying. The Lord’s mercy is there waiting when you are ready.