In his book, Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety by Henri Nouwen, Nouwen says, “The great art of spiritual living is to pay attention to the breathing of the spirit right where you are and to trust that there will be breathing of new life.” Where is God breathing new life into yours?
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
- Mark 8:35 -
In the western culture that is largely driven my success, accomplishment, and finishing first, the idea of surrender gets a bad rap. This mindset has been conditioned to understand surrender as weakness, as defeat. Waving the white flag means that the other side has won and that we have lost. But the nature of surrender in the spiritual sense is more than those things. It is a path to freedom.
I have had many surrenders in my life. Some were because I had been driven to my knees. Some because I fell to them. Rumi once said, “There are many ways to kneel down and kiss the ground.” In my life, each time I have knelt down and surrendered to Truth, it has led to freedom. Each time meant that I was letting go of something that was holding me back in order to grab ahold of something new.
In recovery we learn that it is only through admitting utter defeat at the hands of addiction, the dismantling of self-delusion, and the crushing of our ego, are we able to make a start into a better, sober, and sane life.
In 1998 I was finally driven to my knees by my own addiction. I had not gone willingly. It came only after decades of self-centeredness, and in the later years, losing myself completely to the point of near death and insanity. It felt like I had given in to the darkness of addiction and was just waiting for the final death blow. But then, something happened. Call it what you will. I call it Divine intervention – the loving arm of God catching me during the fall and gently helping me to my knees. In the end, it came with a quiet sigh of relief. All these years later, I still wake up each day and surrender to the truth that I am powerless over my addictions and thank God for another day of sobriety. It is, as John Denver once wrote, a “sweet surrender.”
In 2010 Sr. Greta and myself made our monastic vows. Once again, I found myself on my knees. This time willingly and guided by the loving hands of fellow monks who knew about this point of surrender – about being on your knees before God. I will never forget that moment. I remember the gentle, loving touch of these wise monks as they draped the scapular over my shoulders with such care, and fussed with the hood to make sure it was just right. And it was right. This is what surrender feels like.
We were not only giving ourselves individually to God, but it also marked the beginning our Community of Divine Love. There was such a strong sense that God was starting something new and it felt important to be a part of it. Since that day, many others have associated themselves with the community, all of them surrendering in their own way to a greater love.
Each day since has been a surrender to God’s will in my life. There have been starts and stops. Sometimes my ego pokes its head in the door, just to see if I want to go on a little trip. Then I remember what a beloved friend and mentor who died with fifty-two years in recovery once said: “Your ego is not your amigo.” Truer words were never spoken. Each time I decline the invitation for an ego-trip, I get a further glimpse of the freedom that comes only with surrendering my will over to the care of God.
When one does not know the value of surrender in their life, it can result in being ego-driven life, albeit stuck in reverse, and one moving away from the Divine guidance that wants only our freedom. It is a tragic thing to deny ourselves the gifts that come with the surrendered life because of our need to control and manipulate our own experience. I know this sounds counter-cultural to so many caught up in the achieving, striving, success-oriented mindset that we inherit, but ultimately it is only through surrender that we truly win at this thing called life.
COLLECT OF THE DAY
O Lord our God, in your Holy Sacraments you have given us a foretaste of the good things of your kingdom: Direct us, we pray, in the way that leads to eternal life, that we may come to appear before you in that place of light where you dwell forever with your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
LISTEN TO "ABRAHAM"
Click link below to listen to Sufjan Stevens' song about surrendering to a call.
Click on the link below to purchase today's suggested reads: Oblivion: Grace in Exile With a Monk Behind Bars by Dennis Gibbs and/ or Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.