The spiritual practice of surrendering is a path to spiritual growth and maturity. It is a call to walk in the way of Jesus, even when we have been hurt, betrayed, and let down by individuals or systems. When we surrender, we bear fruit, no matter the circumstances.
What are the fruits of surrendering?
Surrendering releases a flow of compassion, helping me to see the humanity in the other, regardless of what they may or may not have done. The behavior is called out and their imago Dei remains. I do not condone their behavior; and neither do I write off their humanity. Compassion is possible when we grasp the full meaning of Jesus' words in Matthew 7, to judge not. This oft-quoted verse has led to much confusion and “spiritual bypassing”. It is not a call to suspend one’s evaluatory faculties. It is a warning against hypocrisy.
When I surrender, I create space to look in the mirror and check myself. Psalm 51:10 beckons to me, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” This means that I can show up and be an ally, or an advocate, or lend a listening ear. Rather than running away and hiding, I can walk alongside others in my life or continue to seek God’s good for them, even from a distance. I may need to have clear boundaries but surrendering prevents me from building an impenetrable wall around myself.
Surrendering brings release and relief. When I stare into an abyss of impotence that mocks my savior complex, I am forced to recognize my desire to be in control. It’s not just that I want problems to be solved, I want them to be solved my way and in my time. I am forced to acknowledge that I am under the illusion that I have a bird’s eye view of the maze beneath me, and I can see the way out clearly. In truth, I am lost in the maze.
With this sobering admission, I am tempted to curl up in a corner, paralyzed, or worse, yield to apathy as an act of self-preservation. However, as a follower of Christ, it’s not an option open to me. His life was anything but dispassionate. He called out wrongs, held people accountable and refused to be a bystander.
I may not know everything, but I do know some things. I have a part to play in all kinds of situations which are in my realm of influence, yet I do not have ultimate control. This comprehension ushers in a sigh of relief. I can open my clenched hands, releasing the egoic edifice that is a delusion of self-proclaimed autonomy, and whisper, “not my will or my way Lord, but yours.”
Surrendering brings rest. If one is to fight the good fight, then every ounce of strength must be marshaled. I cannot run a race if I have not trained my muscles or given them time to recover. If I am to have any kind of impact in God’s good world, I must go inwards first.
Howard Thurman wrote, “Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one's own situation so as not to be overcome by them.” . How easily I can be overcome by the needs around me and the onslaught of the 24-hour news cycle. How easily I can be beaten down when I see injustices go unseen or swept under the carpet in the name of a false peace, whether it’s on some global scale or closer to home. When I surrender, I can be honest, avoid sugar-coating anything, close my eyes, and take a moment to regain my composure and my vigor.
Surrendering is not easy. It requires practice and a firm disposition towards seeking the narrow path. The fruit is worth it.
 Howard Thurman, Theologian, Educator and Mentor to Martin Luther King. Quote from “For the Inward Journey.”
Witty works as the Career and Vocational counsellor at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta, combining her professional career development background with her spiritual direction skillset. She graduated from Portland Seminary in 2019 with a Masters in Spiritual Formation. Witty is deeply interested in questions of vocation and significance. She describes her own vocation as seeking to be an attentive presence, creating safe spaces where others can discover all they are called to be. http://www.everydaypilgrimages.org