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Surrender Does Not Mean Giving Up

January 14, 2013

Here is an excerpt from my e-book, “At Work as it is in Heaven: 25 Ways to Re-imagine the Spiritual Purpose of Your Work.”

DSCF1713 - CopyA friend suggested I start meditating.

He made it sound so easy and fun. And I said, “Well, yes, that might help
calm me down.” But I was also secretly thinking how practicing meditation would make me sound extremely hard-core spiritual.

“Okay,” said I. “How do I start?”

“Here’s how you do it,” my spiritually superior friend directed. “You find a quiet place, sit in a chair, like this, close your eyes and think of a ‘God-word,’ like Peace. Surrender. Glory. Or something that stands out from your Bible reading. Repeat that word over and over, and here’s the hard part: you cannot let your mind stray to any other thoughts.”

I’ve never meditated like that before, although I do try to find a quiet place from time to time, first thing in the morning, to read a passage from the Bible and possibly even to spend a few minutes praying. But praying is difficult because my mind tends to go all over the place, just like he said.

“Dear Jesus, Lord in heaven, I pray for my daughter, that you would give her safe travels as she leaves for that school ski trip, and that you would help her to become a strong, fine, young Christian woman who remains chaste and – Wait! today is the meeting with the attorneys about the joint-venture! Lord, I pray that it goes well! Hmmm, I hope Barker isn’t there. He’s such an idiot. Um . . I wonder what time it is? Geez, I better get going if I want to get Starbucks before work . . .”

There are just too many stray thoughts bumping around in my little head.

Most of us Western Christians think of prayer in terms of a more active thing, like we want to get something accomplished with God. Meditation, on the other hand, is more like going blank and just listening to God rather than telling him what you want him to do or what you think of him. We’re just not used to that.

I’ve been steady at it, three or four times each week. Overall, it’s been a pleasant opportunity to calm myself, focus on a characteristic or quality of God, and suck up some peace of mind for a little while. But no major messages from God, per se.

Until yesterday.

The word I chose to meditate on yesterday was “Surrender.”

I must admit that I have always been a bit suspicious of the concept of surrendering to God. It’s not like I’m on Christian-zombie autopilot with God pulling all the switches for me. I am in the game, sleeves rolled up, tapping my instincts and experience as I make decisions all day long. I don’t look for signs of God’s approval jumping out behind every corner. It’s not like I’m thinking about whether or not God wants me to do this or that. I’m just living. I’m just being, and getting on with my day.

So. I’m about five minutes into my morning meditation, focusing on the word “Surrender.” And probably to be honest with you, in the back of my mind at some subterranean subconscious level I was still asking God, “What is the deal with surrendering? What does that even mean? What do you want from me?

And then, very quietly, out of nowhere, this thought just passed over me like a warm blanket on a freezing cold night:

Surrender doesn’t mean giving up. It means engaging completely and fully in your life.

That was it. That concept, not exactly in words, but that idea, emerged unassumingly and then proceeded to fully establish itself in my thoughts. It stepped into the room, took a quick look around, and dropped its bags to the floor, saying, “Child, I ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

And then I knew. It was like an epic shift was taking place in the tectonic plates of my spiritual topography. All of the interior wheels and gears that make up the apparatus of my consciousness clicked over a couple of notches, and in an instant changed my entire outlook on life.

A flood of insights started surging through my mind, connecting a life’s worth of events, circumstances, decisions, attitudes, aspirations, and consequences. Surrender is the opposite of giving up. It’s giving in—to who you are. It’s not passive; it’s active. But I have to trust in God for the outcome. That’s the hitch. And that’s the mystery.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2013 8:50 am

    Jim,
    While I enjoyed the whole book, I can honestly say that I have most often reference this part. The line “It’s not passive; it’s active.” was a shock to me to think of surrendering in this light. Thank you
    Nick

  2. January 14, 2013 3:17 pm

    “Surrender” is very close in spirit and intent to the word “Submit”. We don’t like either of them because they rob us of our self (ish). There are really two things I need to submit to God — and probably this would apply everywhere else — money and relationships. After those two things, it gets easier.

    You suggest that surrender is about waving the white flag of giving up. It really isn’t. I see it more of (finally) letting go of the steering wheel. I’m still moving forward, but I don’t have to worry about the destination.

  3. January 14, 2013 8:00 pm

    I love the way you express your thoughts and share your journey. I have found meditation to be empowering and calming. Your concept of surrender is wonderful. Thank you.

  4. January 15, 2013 6:53 am

    I think of surrender as finally starting to operate the way you were made to. It’s like a machine that’s out of alignment – when things click back to where they should be, everything’s smoother and more effective.

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