This is the first year I have had one word as a focus for the year. I had heard a lot of other people talk about how much they had learned and how much they had been impacted by focussing on a single word, so I was interested to give it a try, but I was not prepared for how much God would teach me through it even in the first week.
The word God led me to was “Surrender” and the thought of it scared me, but the first lesson I have learned is that I had a pretty confused idea of what the word actually meant. Now that God has corrected that, I feel a lot easier about the whole thing.
It all came back to a memory from childhood, but the basic fear was that if I said yes to surrendering to God I was giving up all control, and that he was going to force me to places I didn’t want to go. He went on to show me that this could not be further from the truth of who he is.
A couple of days later, God asked me to do something I didn’t want to do. I had reasons to justify it, but really they were excuses. I wrestled with it a bit, and in the end I disobeyed.
Obviously this is not good, but I did learn two important lessons from it.
Firstly it showed me how deeply rooted my selfish desires are, and how skilled I am at justifying these desires to myself. I have been reflecting on Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34 this week: “If any of you wants to be my follower you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.” and I realise I have some work to do in this whole area. The thing God asked me to do was relatively small and if I can’t obey him in the small things how can I expect to obey him in the big things?
The second lesson was probably more important though. God didn’t force me to obey him. He could easily have orchestrated the situation so that I would have felt obliged to do what he was asking me to do, but he didn’t. He gave me the choice about whether to obey him, and it was a genuine choice. I made the wrong choice, but I had the power to make that choice.
He showed me that surrender is not about him seizing control and leaving me helpless. It is not about saying yes to walking with God and then being dragged along, fighting and resisting all the way. The surrender he is looking for is willing surrender.
God reminded me of Jesus’ example. He was obedient to his Father all the way- coming to earth to live as a man, resisting the Devil’s temptation, doing only what he saw his Father doing.
There was that moment though in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus expressed his pain and anguish at the thought of the suffering that awaited him and he had to wrestle with the prospect of going ahead with God’s plan. He chose to surrender to his Father’s will, but he genuinely had a choice about whether to go through with it. Even having come so far already along the road of surrender, he still had control over whether he took the next step.
And that wasn’t the end of it either- when Jesus is arrested he says to his disciples, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53) Even at that point he still had the choice. If he had chosen not to go through with the plan, God would have sent angels to rescue him.
His surrender was about continually deciding moment by moment to keep going and keep submitting to his Father’s will. It was not a one-time decision that he was then forced to follow through against his will.
This reassures me a lot and makes me want to learn to surrender to God. If he can teach me all of this in the first week I’m excited to see what I will learn as we go through the year.
linking with Five Minute Friday at katemotaung.com – write for five minutes on a given prompt, which today is “first”