What It Means To Surrender
“I woke up singing, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.’ Alleluia, amen.”
I have been consumed with the idea of having a work in the world – a career, a vocation, a mission, a calling, a purpose… I have wanted to serve the world in a large and shining way.
Twenty-six years ago I had big plans. I was an accounting student at the top of my class. I was going to be a CPA with a Big Eight accounting firm. Then, I was going to go to law school and become a brilliant and acclaimed lawyer who would right injustices and make lives better. It was kind of like Super Mica, without the cape.
Then I was in a car accident that changed all that. I was critically injured and for years was in and out of the hospital and had numerous surgeries to repair things. I was left with disabilities that would affect me for the rest of my life. And I had a closed head injury that made it impossible for me to work with numbers. I couldn’t even multiply two digit numbers and got numerical terms, like hundreds and thousands, confused. Not good for a CPA.
I eventually came to peace with that because the accident had brought about a spiritual rebirth, a new relationship with the Divine. I became more interested in helping others heal than in saving them by trying their cases or fixing their balance sheets. There were so many new careers that called to me: minister, art therapist, counselor, spiritual director. There were so many ways that I felt called to serve the world. I didn’t mind a detour to success, but I still planned on success. I still planned to accomplish big things.
But for years the trajectories I set for myself to ‘succeed’ have been interrupted by infections that hospitalize me or pain episodes that keep me in bed for weeks or grandchildren who come to live with me when their lives are in crisis. And, as time ticks by and I get older, I’m getting a little concerned about running out of time.
A few nights ago I was praying about this. I was asking, “What is your will? Do you want me to go to acupuncture school? Massage school? Culinary school? Expand my reiki practice? What path do you choose for me? What job am I meant to have? I want your will to be done. I surrender this to you.”
Then a voice inside asked, “What if the answer is ‘no job’?” I felt a sense of confusion and disbelief, as if I’d been tricked, and I started explaining that 'no job' was not one of the options.
I realized that my prayer was like a multiple-choice test for God.
Is it going to be A, B, C, or D? And, because I am very open-minded about how God answers my prayers, there was even an option ‘E. other’, with a blank for God to fill in. But what I had left out was option ‘F. none of the above’. And I thought, “Uh oh, maybe surrender doesn’t mean what I think it means.”
Because I have prayed over and over for God’s way, but I meant God’s way for me to have a job, a career, an income, a work in the world… Not God’s way for me to give those things up.
I have been saying, and believing, for years that I will surrender to God’s will, but I didn’t get that surrender meant ‘give up’. Give up the fight, give up my plans, give up my way. I thought it meant give in and wait for a time while God figured out the best way to give me what I wanted.
When I said, “Show me your way”, I think I meant show me your way to get my way.
When I said “Thy will be done’, I pretty much meant, may your will be done in order for my will to be done.
At the thought of God’s answer being none of the above I sort of felt like I couldn’t breathe. And I started to think about what it would mean to really say, “I surrender, I give up this need, this longing.” And what I discovered was that a ‘work in the world’ isn’t just something I want to have, it’s something I thought I had to have. I’ve been thinking that I need a career or a mission to complete me, to define me, to validate me. I’ve wanted some purpose to give my life meaning. To justify it.
As I played with the idea that I could accept ‘no job’ as an answer, I realized that I’ve been waiting for the life I am supposed to have to prove my worth instead of seeing the worth in the life I already have. I keep waiting and waiting for God to show me the life I’m meant to live, never realizing that I might be already living the life I’m meant to live. I’ve been waiting and waiting for that external thing to happen that would give my life meaning instead of seeing that I am what gives my life meaning. It’s not figuring out the life I’m supposed to have that will make my life worthwhile. The life I have is already worthwhile.
I kept trying to figure out how to be good enough and missed that I am already good.
I’ve been thinking God’s will meant where God wanted me to end up. But maybe God’s will is for me to be where I already am. A friend once recommended a book called “The Will of God is a Way of Life.” And I bought it, but I never read it because I thought the author was missing the point. But I’m beginning to think that maybe I was missing the point, that maybe ‘the will of God’ is more about the way I live my life than it is about what life I live.
So I actually have surrendered. I’ve surrendered the belief that I need to justify my existence and find a way to validate my worth. I’ve started to accept that the worth is already in me and that living the life I have is an expression of that.
I woke up yesterday feeling so free. Free to live the life I have. It’s a great life and I’ve always loved it but I never thought it was enough to count. I was always afraid that somehow I was wasting the life I’d been given.
By surrendering that, I was able to wake up and say, “Thank you very much for this day, for this life, for where I am and what I have to do.” I woke up singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Alleluia, amen.