Surrendering: My Lifeline

Mar 14 / Witty Sandle
As I write this post, I am experiencing tumult in my life on more than one front. I am trying to navigate a space between despairing inaction as a form of self-preservation, and active involvement that gets me into trouble. Questions of fairness, what’s right, and justice are all jostling for attention in my overwrought mind. In the midst of these storms, I am finding that the spiritual practice of surrendering is showing me a way through.

In truth, it would be much easier to write this in a few months when I can look back and reflect on lessons learnt. Then I would have a vantage point that lies on the other side of my current challenges. I will be able to declare, with confidence and a touch of smugness, that all was well in the end. However, I am not on the other side. All the nice bible verses in the world aren’t helping, whether they come from others or my super-spiritual inner voice that tells me, pointedly, that all things work together for good.

“Yes, I know”, I shout back, but right now, Romans 8:28 isn’t doing much for me. It just sounds like St Paul’s proverbial resounding gong and clanging cymbal. Instead, I find more comfort in the cry of someone like Fannie Lou Hammer [1] who once declared, she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired." Yes Fannie, I hear you!

Surrendering has become a lifeline that is keeping me afloat. I am having to consciously choose to surrender daily - sometimes hourly and even moment by moment. It's not easy. The multi-faceted questions of justice and truthfulness are particularly problematic.

Surrendering can often just seem like giving in or giving up. It can feel like acquiescing to that which should be confronted and called out. Or looking away when what is required is a courageous stand. But the reality is that surrendering is not a docile act at all. Rather, it moves me towards a posture that energizes me from the inside out, allowing me to persist and press into my realities. It means that Fannie Lou Hammer’s voice becomes a stirring rally cry to action and not passivity.

How am I surrendering?

Breathing slowly. As mentioned, there are times when I am having to surrender almost moment by moment. Paying attention to my breathing is an essential life-sustaining act, it anchors me as I go. Filling my lungs with a deep breath and slowly releasing it, calms my overloaded brain and slows me down. I accompany the inhale and the exhale with either a form of the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, for I have missed the mark," or, simply, “not my will Lord but yours.” The first prayer points me towards compassion, for myself and others, and the second brings release and relief as I give up control.

Seeking solitude. Jesus modeled the importance of separating himself from the hustle and bustle of his ministry, including praying alone. One can argue that success in his mission demanded he be alone as a regular practice. [2]. I try to start my day with solitude and quiet. When I am alone, in the silence, I put myself in a place of surrendering all the day will bring me, remembering I have good work to do and I am not alone in the work. I am renewed and prepared for the hours ahead.

Seeking company. This may seem to contradict seeking solitude, but it’s a both/and, not an either/or. Again, we can look to the life of Jesus who had a group of friends with whom he did life. I am not sure where I would be without my circle of people with whom I laugh, cry and vent. They listen, they offer advice when I seek it, and they allow my emotions to spill forth, untamed and unfettered. They help me to surrender by providing an outlet for my raw feelings, giving time and space for them to dissipate. It leaves me with only that which needs to remain to bring about the good. My Spiritual Director is also one of my companies. She holds space for me to process, to untangle and to name what must be given up and what I need to keep. She helps me to see what I may not see and asks me the questions I need to hear. This ministry of deep listening helps me draw close to the whispers of God’s Spirit.

I am finishing this post during the first lenten weekend - a season where we are called to withdrawal, sacrifice and reflect as we prepare for Easter.

What, I wonder, will I be called to surrender and what fruit will emerge?

What are your practices of surrender?

[1] Fannie Lou Hammer, (1917-1977), was a civil and voting rights activist as well as a champion for greater economic opportunities for African Americans.
[2] “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35.
Witty Sandle
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.