I’m on the tail end of what has been a very hard season. Life seems to have hit some sort of warp speed that even the Starship Enterprise would be impressed by. And I limped my way through my first serious bout with depression that, I am not ashamed to tell you, knocked me down hard more than a few times these past few months. There are many days I feel as if I have been transported back to the worst teenage version of myself, complete with the constantly brooding “Who am I?” question echoing in my head. My self-confidence has been waning and I find myself second guessing every decision from the “big ones” to the “What should we eat for dinner” ones. (Let’s be real, though. The answer to dinner is always: Chili’s. #2for1) And through it all my counselor has been bringing me back to one word over and over again: surrender.
For a “Fix it now”, kind of controlling, get ‘er doner personality such as mine, the concept of “surrender” is a hard pill to swallow. The first time my counselor uttered this dirty word to me in her office my brain immediately conjured up an image that looked like this:
I mean, seriously, right?! This lady is literally being held up by butterflies while both a full moon and a mother loving RAINBOW are majestically beaming down upon her! And through it all she is completely at ease in her white gown of serenity. She is not at all worried that those butterflies are going to drop her. Nor does she seem overwhelmingly concerned that she might be on one crazy trip to have hallucinated these little fairy wings in the first place. This woman has fully surrendered herself to something, and she is loving it!
And then I imagined what surrender looks like in my life these days and this image came to mind:
Yep. This is more accurate as to how surrender looks in my life. Here we have our beloved hero, Wesley of The Princess Bride, having just defeated the Fire Swamp, a nasty and most likely rabid bite from an R.O.U.S (rodent of unusual size) and a near drowning in the lightning sand, and he still refuses to give up the fight when the nefarious and evil Prince Humperdink demands his surrender. Wesley has proven he is not going down without a fight even if that means he foolishly heads back into the Fire Swamp of death. Wesley is exhausted, discouraged and most likely rabid but he will NOT be surrendering any time soon! And if I’m honest, this is where I am these days, too. Well, hopefully minus the rabies. (Please, Lord, don’t let me have rabies on top of it all.)
I am exhausted. I am discouraged. And yet I am still convinced I could easily duck right back into that Fire Swamp and do it all again if it means I don’t have to surrender.
But recently God coaxed into me a new image of surrender. Sadly, I don’t have an artist’s rendering of this one yet but let me paint you a word picture:
If we look all the way back to almost the beginning of our Bibles and page through the book of Exodus we find our heroes, the Israelites, with their backs against the wall…er, the water. They have escaped the misery of Egyptian slavery only to find themselves being hotly pursued across the wilderness by their former captors and now the blasted Red Sea is in their way. They are exhausted. They are discouraged. They might even be rabid, (who knows what really happened in Egypt). But surrendering to the Egyptians is NOT an option. So Moses says this to them as they worry and fret and cry out to God for help:
“The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to keep still!”
~ Exodus 14:14
We know the rest of the story, right? Moses prays to God for help. God parts the Red Sea. The Israelites run across it and live to fight another day. They didn’t have to surrender to the Egyptians. Instead they surrendered to the One who had brought them out of slavery in the first place. They kept still. They performed the one action that felt like inaction at first.
We have this idea that “keeping still” is passive, that it is simply a release of some sort. But have you ever really watched someone try to keep still when it’s the last thing their body wants to do? Be it your five year old who just scraped their knee on the concrete and now needs a bandaid or the amazing feats of athleticism we see in gymnasts as they hold their entire bodies taut whilst balancing upon their pinkie fingers. Holding still is very, very hard. It requires discipline. It requires trust. It requires strength. Keeping still is anything but passive!
And this is the surrender God has been begging me to do during this season. He isn’t asking me to give up. He isn’t asking me to wave the white flag of defeat to evil or to collapse into the net of butterflies waiting to catch me, because life ain’t all butterflies, either! He is asking me to practice being still so that He can fight for me! He is asking me to trust Him. He is asking me to be disciplined and to be strong. He is asking for my surrender. And while I still often lose the battle with surrender these days, when I get it right and focus all of my energy on keeping still and letting Him fight for me, my true surrender to Him is sweeter than all the butterflies and full moons and rainbows in the world.