One of my history teachers used to talk about how lame France was in history. Over and over, he said, they waved the white flag early on in a fight and ducked out. He thought that made them cowards. Most people would agree that surrendering or quitting is a sign of weakness.
I don’t know whether the French government really was or is weak, but I know that the word has taken on a new identity in my life and I want to share what I’m learning. Addiction recovery programs talk about surrendering one’s life and will to a higher power. The first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are (essentially) realizing your life is a mess, believing there is a God who can clean it up, and giving your whole life over to him to fix it. You surrender everything you thought you should control.
My whole life people have talked about learning to trust God (or whatever your idea of a higher power is). I heard the story of Peter walking on the water until he looked away from Jesus and he started to sink. I’ve wanted so badly to trust him completely, but never could quite figure it out.
Well the problem was that I thought I could trust Him to figure things out only after I had done a massive amount of planning, put in hours of exhaustive labor, and then filled in the gaps with a ridiculous amount of worrying. I thought that He would only make something good happen after I had worked myself into the ground.
Let me give you a missionary example. For the first part of my mission I worked my little skirt-wearing tail off. I loved the feeling of biking in the heat and having back to back (very sweaty) appointments. I wanted to work so hard that God, my companion, and my mission leaders would be proud of me. My heart was in the right place- I sincerely wanted to teach people about the Gospel. But I thought that it was up to Me and God.
Well most of ya’ll know how that turned out….I had a complete breakdown. Over time my mental state and the physical symptoms that followed made me increasingly more inclined to spend my time curled up in bed trying to survive than running around trying to get people to join the church. I felt like a failure because obviously if I wasn’t doing the work, the work wouldn’t go on.
Well, in the last few months I was a missionary a miracle happened that taught me otherwise. One of our favorite member families had invited a member friend to hear the gospel. He was the nicest high school kid who started coming to church with his friend. They taught him most of the lessons- I think I made it out of bed to teach him once or twice. Then one day he called us up and said, “Sisters, I want to talk to you about getting baptized.” Even on the day of his baptism I was so sick and anxious but it all came together perfectly. That amazing young man is now serving a mission. Obviously all of that happened because of my diligent effort, unwavering faith, and perfect obedience right?
GUYS I was literally spending my days in bed and living off salted caramel waffles from IHOP! I was doing nothing that would have qualified me to “have a baptism.” But God had a baptism; he welcomed an amazing soul into his fold and we got to watch. Because it’s God’s work- he just lets us pretend to help sometimes.
How does this relate to “real” life? What I’m learning is that by surrendering to God, things just work out. I used to sit and stew for hours about a problem; now I get on my knees and surrender it to Him. Literally I just say, “Listen God, I can’t fix this or make it better. I’m giving it to you. Please make the outcome okay.” And HE DOES.
Here’s the surrender process:
-Talk about what you are worrying/obsessing about with another person who has earned the right to hear it. Ask them not to try to fix it, just to listen.
-Pray to your higher power and surrender the worry
-Write the worry in a journal, notebook, or slip of paper to put inside a box. Once it’s in there, it’s gone. It’s surrendered.
You can do these three steps as many times as it takes for your mind to let go of the worry.
My holdup for a long time with surrendering was that I knew God would make what was best happen, but I didn’t think I could handle what was best. I was afraid that He would give me something too hard that I couldn’t actually survive. But then I look back at all the things I’ve survived so far. I’ve got a 100% track record for surviving hard things. So I choose to have faith that God will make everything turn out for the best AND I’ll be able to handle whatever that is. He’s made us so many promises that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle, and I choose to trust that.
Another thing that held me back was that I thought surrendering meant that I became lazy and stopped trying. I know that God helps people who help themselves-how does surrendering fit with that? I think it comes back to the idea of grace. This life is like baking with your kids- they like to “help” by making messes, licking spoons, spilling flour everywhere, and then being soooo proud of themselves when a yummy cake comes out of the oven. The result can be 100% attributed to Mom cleaning up the messes and getting the job done right. But she lets her kid feel proud because he tried to help, and she knows that one day he’ll be good at baking because she let him try.
In this earth life, the fact is that we are only children in God’s eyes. The only reason anything good happens for us is because a higher power wills it so. So we can stop thinking that it’s up to us to fix problems. Once we’ve surrendered it doesn’t mean we stop working to find a solution- He still expects us to help in the kitchen no matter how bad we are at it, because He knows that’s how we learn. And the outcome, the final cake? That’s all up to Him.
Surrendering the things I used to worry about endlessly has freed my mind and soul. I can now focus on the things I can do something about, and turn everything else over to God. And I’ve seen the miracle of things just working themselves out. It’s amazing- good things happen WITHOUT me worrying constantly about them! As I’m learning to wave the white flag, I’m finding inner peace. Maybe France has it right all along.