Friday, January 26, 2018

Five Minute Friday: SURRENDER




Last night during the Five Minute Friday Twitter chat that happens every Thursday evening, our leader, Kate, asked which of two words we'd prefer to write on this week: SACRIFICE or SURRENDER.

I voted for sacrifice -- but I lost, as this post shows!

To me, surrender sounds so "Christian-y": 

"All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give ... I surrender all ..."

"If only he'd surrender his life to Jesus, everything would change."

"We just have to surrender our own will and accept God's will."

It just seems like such a cliche. And because last week in my "intentional" post I'd written about writing my plans in pencil instead of pen -- which was kind of about surrendering my plans and intentions if circumstances change -- it seemed like it would be same-old-same-old to write about surrender this week.

Now, as for the word being too "Christian-y," Kate pointed out later that she actually thinks the word sacrifice is a more "Christian-y" word than surrender. So there you go.

In fact, while the word surrender does appear in the Bible, it's used almost exclusively in the sense of surrendering to an opposing power or surrendering a person up to the authorities. It only appears once in the New Testament: when Pilate releases Barabbas and surrenders Jesus to the will of the people (Luke 23:25). 

It's never used in terms of surrendering our lives to Jesus or surrendering our will and desires.

Maybe I squirm at the word because it carries a sense of resignation or reluctance -- like when you ask a kid to do a chore and they respond with a big sigh that says, "OK fine, I'll do it; you're not exactly giving me a choice here." I want the concept to be more positive, more willing -- not just a grumpy "OK FINE, THEN."

But I suppose, in the example of Jesus being surrendered to the people, he wasn't just a passive, reluctant victim. Luke 22:42 records him saying, in the midst of his anguished prayer, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 

This is really the ultimate surrender: Jesus isn't grudging or resentful, not heaving a self-pitying sigh and saying, "Well, I guess I don't have any say here, do I?" Instead, he's honest, realistic, willing, and determined. In his humanity, he is fearful and desolate -- but beneath that is a trust and a readiness to do whatever love requires.

Jesus shows us the truest, deepest meaning of surrender. Which, I guess, is pretty "Christian-y" after all.


16 comments:

  1. I think you pick up on some of the problematic nuances of the modern word 'surrender' - its oppositional, and even militaristic, connotations. I definitely feel this in American English usage, where its often proceeded by 'total'.
    Like you describe, I often squirm when I hear it in the faith context, as I think it if we aren't careful it can imply wrong motives to God.
    'Surrender', as you say, has undertones that the parties have been in opposition.
    When we 'surrender' to God, however, we believe that God has our best interest in mind, that God isn't struggling against us, and that his plan is what's best for us, not best for him.
    I wonder what a better modern word would be?

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    1. I've been wondering the same thing, Jeff! When I look at the dictionary it's all "capitulate" and "back down" and "yield" etc. "Submit" comes close, but it has a lot of baggage, too. Anyway, I really enjoyed the process of thinking through and writing this post (it wasn't quite as spontaneous as maybe some of my FMF posts have been). I really don't mind the CONCEPT of surrender -- it's more the connotations the word itself has taken on. Thanks for your comment; I appreciate it!

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  2. It's interesting to read your post because the song that came to my mind when I read the FMF word for today was one by Matt Redman.
    " In surrender I must give my every part, Lord receive this sacrifice of a broken heart". And yes I think sacrifice has a religious connection!

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    1. Yes, I like that song; we do it at church a lot. I also like the Hillsong one I Surrender, the one with the bridge that says: "Like a rushing wind, Jesus breathe within..." There are lots of good songs that incorporate this concept. Even In the Bleak Midwinter: "Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart." Thanks so much for reading and commenting today!

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  3. I understand your difficulty with the word surrender. It was the word that came to me for my word of the year in 2016 and I did not like the word at all at first. I think it's what you say about the word carrying a sense of resignation or reluctance. I was scared that God would force me to do all kinds of things that I didn't want to do. I learned so much over the year and actually came to like the word. And I agree, Jesus' willing surrender is the perfect example.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Lesley. I was being a little bit tongue in cheek about my complaint, but not entirely! It was really interesting to grapple with the word, and I'm glad I did. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  4. You surrendered your vote to write on the word "sacrifice" and went with the prevailing choice. And you did it thoughtfully and with good will. I think your post embodies the act of surrender you ended up writing about.

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    1. Thanks, Tim! It was really interesting to think about this word and some of the associations we may have with it.

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  5. Hi Jeannie. Your thoughtful reflection reminded me of a profound piece of advice that George MacDonald gave his son Greville in a letter dated Jan 19, 1887: “To be one with him [God] seems the only common sense, as well as the only peace. Let him do with you, my beloved son, as he wills. Be hearty with his will. Submission is not the right feeling when we say ‘Thy will be done.’ His will is the only good…”

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    1. That's lovely, Franceen - thanks! MacDonald must have had a beautiful relationship with God AND with his son, to say that to him so kindly and confidently.

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    2. Hi Jeannie, so true! And I just happened to come across another pertinent quote, this time from Thomas Erskine of Linlathen (1862): "Love is not satisfied with submission; it requires that we should enter into its purposes."

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    3. That's an excellent quote as well.

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  6. Hey there, Jeannie. I think my first comment went to LaLa Land? But I appreciate your thoughts. I relate to thinking the word "surrender" sounds like Christianese with little relevance to my daily life. I've started thinking of it in terms of the small things: my worry, my fear, my way, my plan for that day.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Betsy! I like the idea of relating it to small things, too. Maybe that helps make the word something we do willingly rather than because we are forced.

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  7. I love yur take on the word "surrender". It is so positive. I took it rather negatively too.

    As for the word being too Christian-y, I am a very progressive believer who derives meaning from all manner of spiritual sources, so that I don't even usually say I'm a Christian. However, I love the inspirational prompts in FMF and this one I could've written a more inspiratonal post on if I'd not wanted to write on my personal situation.

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    1. I love how you wrote about surrender, Astrid - not just acquiescing to a wrong situation, but using your energy to work for positive change. I haven't read many of your posts yet but I enjoy how you link the word to your own life rather than just looking at it abstractly. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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