Sunday, September 30, 2012

More on Surrender

A few weeks ago on two separate occasions I heard some very impacting words that have continued my thinking of this theme of surrender.  One was a quote in a sermon preached by Andy Luchies - which you can listen to Here.  One is a line from a song titled Dawn to Dusk written by All Sons and Daughters - which you can preview Here.  The paraphrased quote and song lyric go as follows:

The pain of discipline is more bearable than the pain of regret.  

Tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender.

Both of these hit a nerve with me, and really they feel like two sides of the same coin.  I can choose to listen to God, to surrender my selfishness and pride, let go of my own will, submit to and endure His discipline to ultimately find freedom.  Or I can shut out God's voice, stay in my selfishness and pride, hold on to what I want, choosing momentary pleasure but ultimately feel the pain of regret.  

This also seems like it can apply to a vast array of life's struggles.
If I seek financial freedom, today I have to surrender impulse purchases and be disciplined to save.
If I want physical health and freedom, today I need to endure by disciplining my eating habits and enduring through exercise.
If I want freedom from sin, I need to surrender to God in the moment of weakness and let the Holy Spirit work in my heart, mold me day by day to be more like Christ.
And if I want to live in freedom, to live a life wholly devoted to Jesus, it will often take surrender and experiencing that pain of God's discipline, listening to Him and walking with Him.

One thing I love about these quotes is that they acknowledge that surrender is painful.  Discipline, in both senses of the word (practicing a daily discipline, and enduring God's loving correction), is not easy, but often painful.  But I have to agree that enduring that pain is infinitely better than the pain of regret, the pain of not being free.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Redefine Part 2: Surrender vs. Decide

If you have ever heard the same story told by two different people, you know that different perspectives can completely change the outlook on a situation.  For example…

The exact same sequence of events seen from different points of view can make you come to different conclusions.

This is something I have been thinking about when it comes to having a relationship with God.  Do we decide to follow God?  Doesn’t God pursue us?  Love us first before we even know it?  But even still, it is still my choice to follow God, right?

There is a familiar chorus that says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”  I feel that many Christians would say that they made a decision to follow Jesus, that after careful thought and consideration, or after a certain clarifying moment in their lives, they decided to commit their lives to God.  And from their perspective, that is how it feels – I was not following God, and then for various reasons, I decided to follow Him.  Though God is obviously a part of this decision, it really puts the responsibility and direction of our relationship with God in our hands.

But from the perspective of looking back on my life, when I take in the sequence of events that I have gone through, it becomes much clearer how active God has been in my life, how He has lead me and guided me with His loving kindness.  He has pursued me with gentleness and love.  He has been patient through my half-hearted growth and He has been faithful despite my erratic devotion.  He has not changed, but has consistently drawn me closer to Himself, wooing me and showing me the depth of His love.  And for my part, I stumble and stammer, sometimes walking with Him, and other times losing my footing. 

Realizing all of this, the idea of “I have decided…” does not seem to be appropriate.  If “decided” is the right word, then I have had to make that decision over and over again.  Yet somehow, I know that I have a relationship with God that is not lost despite my ups and downs. 

I am starting to think a much more appropriate term for the beginning and continuing of my relationship with God is Surrender.  This is still an action on my part, but with much more recognition of God’s hand working in me.  I have surrendered my life to Jesus.  And as I continue to walk imperfectly through this life, I will continue to surrender different aspects of my heart to Him as He leads me, as He molds me and shapes me.  I have surrendered my desire to be the one making decisions but instead desire to have Jesus as Lord and Master.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redefine Part 1 : Wisdom vs. Requests

Everyday we all operate out of internal constructs that tell us how life works and how we should live.  We have been taught through life experiences, through other people, through education, and many other influences, that this is how things are.  For example, if someone has continuously had people hurt them - parents, friends, lovers - they learn in their mind and heart that people cannot be trusted, and they begin operating out of this idea.  They close their hearts to love, keep others at arms length, and assume that only they can take care of and provide for themselves.   

There is definitely a danger when these narratives in our lives are false.  We usually end up hurting ourselves or others, and rob ourselves of the fullness of life we could have.  In my own life changing these false ideas has been often difficult, but always worth it in the end.  Sometimes the realization that I am living out of an incorrect view of things is a long uncovering process in my heart, and other times it takes mere seconds to recognize a false narrative for what it is and adopt a new perspective.  Lately I have experienced this a few times, and I want to explore here how these things are being redefined.

Prayer.  How do we pray?  What do we pray for?  I have to admit, like most people I know in the Christian community, it is very easy to pray and ask God to do things for me.  God, please make it not rain on that day we have an outdoor event.  God, please help me do well on my test.  God, please help us drive safely as we travel.  God, please make my baby sleep.

Please make my baby sleep – this is the prayer I was about to pray a few weeks ago when Jordyn was having a really rough day.  But as I was sitting there, holding her, it struck me that she is a baby.  And babies cry.  And cry.  And do not always sleep well.  I cannot expect that every time she is cranky, I can pray, and God will make her sleep. 

So I started to think about what I pray for, and what I should pray for.  There is a big difference between asking God to do something for me, and seeking His presence within my life and circumstances.  When Jordyn is not sleeping and crying, I can pray for His presence, for patience, for His love – that goes beyond our understanding – to fill me so that I can endure these hard moments. 

In the end I prayed for wisdom.  God, give me wisdom to know what is best for my daughter in every situation.  Wisdom to know when to gently hold her and soothe her, or when to walk away and take a breather.  God, give me your heart for her, that I can love her and care for her the way that You love and care for us.  I know there are going to be lots of hard moments – being a parent, but in all of life too.  God is not going to fix them all, because that’s not what it is about.  God is much more about relationship than quick fixes or instant answers.  So now I often pray for wisdom, inner strength, love, patience, and most of all an awareness of His presence in me each moment.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some of the best things in life...

  • Biting into a fresh, juicy peach - or better yet, a freshly made peach pie!
  • Holding a baby close and having their soft face rub against yours
  • Morning sunlight spilling in a room, warming you up to a new day
  • Friends that build you up and inspire you to be a better person
  • Adding your voice to three or four part harmony
  • The scent and feel of being wrapped in a fresh, warm towel
What is one of your best things today??