“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide
CHANGE IS INEVITABLE
In the previous post, I shared some thoughts about the inevitability of change and the difficulty of facing it. I also mentioned some unproductive ways that I have used to attempt to conquer change. In this post, I am suggesting that learning to surrender is a way to handle unwelcome change productively.
I’m discovering that the bottom line for all spiritual growth is surrender. If we want to walk with Jesus, we have to give up control. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is Lord. There is not room on the throne for two lords; we need to get up off the throne and give up all claim to lordship. We can’t grow with God and remain in charge of our lives.
Similarly, when faced with change we aren’t happy about, we may need to surrender our need to control. What is the word surrender all about? Here are some synonyms: give up, submit, yield, hand over, relinquish – words that 21st century Christians may not be fond of. The opposite of surrender is to hold out. For example, if you are arguing with your spouse, your child, a friend or your boss and you don’t want to lose, you will hold out as long as you can. However, if you are trying to keep the relationship smooth, you will consider surrendering your position.
Surrendering, submitting, giving up are not actions that come easily. It takes preparation and training to tame our souls to be willing to relinquish control. One of Scripture’s most useful images for surrender is a potter and his clay, including these two passages from the Old Testament:
“God told Jeremiah, ‘Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.’ So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot that the potter was working on turned out badly, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Then God’s message came to me: ‘Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel? Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you. . . ‘ (Jeremiah 18:1-6 in The Message)
“Yet , O Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, you are the potter: we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
TRAINING FOR CHANGE
Before you read and answer the following questions, imagine molding clay in your hands or visualizing a potter at his or her wheel shaping the wet clay as the wheel turns. Here are questions to ask yourself at the end of every day as you train to be like clay in God’s hands:
Who shaped my life today? Whose influence is molding me? Is my life directed by the pressures of society? By the demands of my schedule? By my ambition? By my need for perfection? Was I like clay in God’s hands today? Can God mold me? If not, why not?
Each morning, ask yourself these questions. Am I willing to give up my agenda today and trust God? Am I willing to let God plan my path? What if God says no to a plan that I am heavily invested in today? Will I push on anyway? Or am I able to surrender?
As you live out your relationships, think about whether you are pushing your agenda on a family member of friend. Are you trying to control someone in any way? Here’s a Twelve Step test to determine if you are attempting to control: if you say something once to someone, it’s information or a suggestion. If you say it twice or three times or more, it’s an attempt to control. The more you nag, the more you are attempting to control. Can you surrender your controlling behavior and trust God to take care of the people you love?
A PRAYER OF SURRENDER
Another exercise to help us train to become a person who, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, is able to surrender even during the hardest times is prayer similar to this one.
Lord, I know that you are the potter and I am the clay. Sometimes I don’t want to be the clay. I want to be the potter! I want to run my own life. Lord, I now confess to wanting to be in charge of my life. I surrender to your Potter’s hands.
Lord, I know many things other than you are shaping my life. I have friends or family members who want to lead me in the wrong direction. I let society’s values shape my values. I let my schedule decide how much time I have for you. Lord, I know confess to wanting to shape my own life. I surrender my life to you.
Lord, I have my own agenda for today, and tomorrow and next week and next year. I know what I want to accomplish. I realize that often I don’t offer you a chance to weigh in on those plans, let alone listen and obey if you tell me you have something different in mind. Lord, I now confess to controlling my own life by refusing to bring you in on my agenda. I surrender my agenda to you.
Lord I know I have an agenda for my spouse, or my child, or my friend. I often think I know what is best for people and don’t hesitate to try to change them. Lord, I know that I am not you. I do not know what is best for someone else’s life. I surrender my relationships to you.
Lord help me today to see:
- the ways that I am trying to keep you in your place
- the ways I take your salvation, but refuse your Lordship
- the times I maintain my identity with little or no thought to asking you how you would have me live or be
- the ways I try to mold you into my image, so I can get my own way.
I ask your forgiveness and move forward in the knowledge that you forgive and will help me shed these self-centered ways and live in your grace. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
So what does all this have to do with change? Adapting to change requires surrendering. Surrendering requires practice. Practice means training to let God shape us so that when submission is necessary, it comes easily, almost without thought.
Training to surrender is like sowing seeds. We reap the rewards when surrender, though risky and sometimes painful (as Anatole France and Andre Gide describe), carries us through the winds of change.