A line in this past Sunday’s Gospel really hits home for me and is the root of what I’ve been working on the hardest spiritually these last couple of years: surrender. Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Jesus is proposing “death to self” here- and that doesn’t sound too appealing at first. I mean, how many people really want to give up their lives and what they want? For a long time that verse was scary to me, but I think a lack of understanding is why I experienced it that way. I’ve only grown deeper in understanding of this concept of surrender because of the long suffering that I am enduring, but I wish I would have understood the freedom that comes with this call to surrender many years ago instead of viewing it as so restrictive.
Before things got really tough in my life, I used to view Jesus’ message there as more of a call to rule following- to give up what I want and do what He wants, almost out of defeat. Once my life got really tough for a while, I was angry at God and took this verse to mean that what I wanted would never matter- that I had to give up happiness in order to do what He wanted, as if Jesus and happiness were opposing forces. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Thankfully I have grown in understanding of what “death to self” really means. It’s a beautiful act of surrender in which I am putting my life, my being, in the hands of someone far more capable than me, someone who loves me far more than my human mind can comprehend, someone who always wants the best for me. It’s not simply a list of rules- surrender is relational at the core. It’s a statement of, “You know better Lord, so guide me accordingly.” It’s letting go of control and of what I think is best. That’s an exercise in trust, but in order to trust, I had to believe the truth that He really does want good for me.
For many years, I doubted that God wanted good for me because I took the crummy circumstances of my life as evidence of God’s lack of love for me, instead of just as evidence of a crummy situation. That doubt of mine was in the way of me experiencing the freedom of surrendering. When I stand on the truth that He actually desires the best for all of us, it’s not as scary to trust and surrender. Why wouldn’t I put all the decisions of my life in the hands of someone who is all-knowing and loves me more than I can imagine?
“Losing my life” is the idea that my own life is about much more than me. Society tells us to think of ourselves first- to be self-serving and always do what makes us happy at any given moment. Not surprisingly, Jesus’ message is to the contrary. If we are slaves to our every desire and whim, then we can never keep up, because as humans, once one desire is met, we are on to the next one. It’s a game-changer to approach situations with an attitude of what God wants over what we want, and to believe that what God wants for us is actually a GOOD thing.
I used to see surrendering to God as a lack of freedom because of restrictions placed upon me. But now I see surrender for what it really is- an opportunity to be the best, most authentic version of myself by being led by the one who knows my heart and purpose better than I even do. Punting the decisions that I make to God is a chance to fulfill my purpose in a greater way than I know how to do, and that is true freedom. I’m actually gaining life by giving up the reins. What He wants of me is part of a master plan and is ultimately better than anything I could devise.
I turn to God for the big decisions, but now I also go to Him for the little things as well. Instead of just doing what I think is best in a given situation, I’m asking God to tell me what He knows to be best. Sometimes I get a clear answer from Him, and other times it’s fuzzy, but approaching it this way is deepening my relationship with Him tremendously.
I often find myself surprised at the direction in which He guides me. There have been instances where my mind tells me that one choice is much more logical than the other choice, but I feel the Lord leading my heart in the other direction. At first, I would lean toward the more “logical” option since it made more sense from where I stood, but I’m learning that when God is steering my heart in a certain direction, it’s for a particular reason, even if I can’t see it. Sometimes I’m finding that the path God is asking me to choose seems less logical because I don’t have all the information at the time, even if I think I do. Only God has all the information and can see the whole picture of what is best for us and for His plan.
Now I’m working to take that leap of faith and go with what He is saying even when it doesn’t seem like the most logical choice to my human mind. It’s actually pretty exhilarating. I have definitely seen things unfold for the better when I’ve chosen His answer over my judgement.
I’m getting better at it, but I don’t hit the mark all of the time. And you know what? That’s okay. God knows I won’t get it right all of the time, but He loves me anyway and will continue working in my life. When I miss the mark, it’s what I do next is that matters. Am I on the lookout for His will about the next decision, and am I willing to let go of my own will to follow Him? It’s taking some practice for me, but I really feel like I’m a much better version of myself when I surrender to Him. I can’t wait to see how much further my understanding of surrender grows in years to come.