On Free Surrender
Surrender is not a word that typically exists in my vocabulary.
I recently discovered the enneagram and knew immediately that I was a 1. I search for the truth, for what is righteous, and I am naturally consumed by an overwhelming need to do and know what is right. I thrive on controlling environment, which means clean counter tops and me ending up exasperated when my husband’s dirty clothes end up five inches away from the hamper.
Surrender has usually conjured up connotations of passiveness, of relinquishing control when there was control and discipline to be had, Surrender meant a lack of determination and decisiveness, which read like weakness to my structured mind.
But over the past few years, life has taught me a lot about surrender, and the most interesting thing of all is that it taught me that the beauty of surrender is that it is essentially my free and controlled and transformed use of the will that enables me to really do it at all.
I didn’t have control over the reality that my dad had a heart attack. I didn’t have control over the fact that my family was plunged into grief and chaos. Those things hit me in the face and there was nothing that I could do to make them go away, no matter how many nights I fell asleep listening to a lecture on Youtube distracting me from thinking on how heart shattering my life was. But I could control how I showed up to a funeral, how I planned a wake, how I wrote my last words to my dad, how I gave of myself to be available for my family with a smile and a calm presence. I had to surrender what made me comfortable, and while I could not control the circumstances around me, I certainly could control how I approached each and every moment, becoming to best possible version of me by thinking and doing outwards and upwards.
I could not control the fact that Leo’s birth ended in some traumatic and awful way, but I could control how I greeted each nighttime wake and each searing pain that wrecked my body, because I had been blessed with a life that I did not deserve and no matter what pain I was in, I had the opportunity to surrender my comfort and ease in a more noble way than my easy life could have ever allowed me.
This second baby was not planned or expected, as evidenced by Garrett and I screaming on our living room floor at the positive test purchased only because people kept having dreams. I cannot control that this pregnancy is more tiring than the first, because I have a toddler to look after that prevents luscious napping whenever I want. I cannot control that I’m gaining weight in new places that make me annoyed. But I can surrender these discomforts and submit myself to choosing the hard things that i don’t want to do, like working out in the morning or reading the stupid dinosaur book for the hundredth time in a row. I cannot control how exhausted and irritated I feel, but I can choose to surrender those uncomfortable things and act in a way that says to the universe, “Yep, I feel like dirt but I’m choosing to smile and get on with my tasks anyway, because I’m a body soul composite and I can.”
So many things I can’t control. My students being unruly or not understanding fraction conversions. Our television screen getting smashed. Me wanting Chick-Fil-A when all we have is eggs and some dumb vegetables. Leo screaming at 2am because of gas or teeth or some frightening baby dream.
….and yet, I can control my inner attitude and outer approach to every single one of these annoying and draining realities. I can interiorally surrender to them existed and me needed to respond in grace. Not only does it take away the pressure of needing to control all of my external circumstances, but it also elevates how I exist in every possible way. I see you, Victor Frankl. I see you, Aquinas, or whatever philosopher I dissected over and over again on those late college nights on the topic of free will and the terribly powerful ramifications that holds for us.
Surrender is scary, in that sense, but at the same time, how utterly reassuring to believe, nope, can’t control what’s happening, I can only conjure up this transcendent ability to actively surrender and choose joy and collectedness and acceptance in the midst of this shit show?
I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s one of the most calming realities I’ve pondered and lived.
“Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us... While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable, we will not surrender it to Him. What, then, can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness?” C. S. Lewis