Surrender


My words have not been right lately. I have been short-tempered, prideful, and questioning. My words are a reflection of my heart. My heart has been experiencing shame.

My heart needs to change.

Not temporary or surface level change, but deep heart-felt change.

Recently I received some email communication from someone I have not communicated with since May 2009. Their communication contained something that caught me by surprise and I did not interpret part of it correctly so did not respond as well as I wish I had responded. Their second message said they had hoped that I had been “set free” this past year, but it was clear I was still working through some things. There was a part of me that felt justified that I had reason to still be working through issues as things are not yet resolved with my last church, but deep down what really bothered me was that this person had seen something I had not seen, even after all these months of hard work. When I stopped to look, I realized they were addressing something in my heart and attitude that needed to change.

Today I finally had the time to work on that with God.

Correction, today I finally had the courage to let God work on me.

Often we know when something is not quite right in our heart. We may avoid it, deny it, reject it, or twist it, but we are still aware it there. I have known recently that things were not completely right in my relationship with God, but I did not know what to do about it. Yesterday the weight of it became heavy and I knew I needed to change. I knew it was time to look at what lay underneath. However, I also knew that I couldn’t change anything. All I could do was to let go, to open myself up to God, and to trust that he would lead me.

So, this morning before I even started the day and moved from bed I laid my heart bare. I surrendered and let go of all plans, all desires, all expectations. I asked with a sincere heart for the Lord to change me and to reveal what I needed to know.

Today has been an amazing day.

The Lord waits for us to come to him.

He is always ready. He will always respond and will not fail us.

That doesn’t mean we will get the desires of our heart or he will answer how we want him to, but he will respond.

Like David, I became aware of my sin, and I cried out for him to change me. (Psalm 51)

Like Paul, my heart grew and my desires are changing so that I am drawn to be like Christ, even in his sufferings (Phil. 3)

This song holds a lot of truth, and it reminds us that the heart, our heart, is the key to our relationship with the Lord.

We can’t change it, but he can change us on the inside. It is our heart that needs to change.

I long for freedom to live in the truth
I want to be more like you
But every time I try to bring about change
I try to change the visible me
There's only one way I'm really gonna change…

Just like King David I cry out to you
Create in me a clean heart
I've grieved you again, I need your release
From patterns that keep me is sin
There's only one way I can finally break free

Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside

God isn’t finished with me yet. There are still areas of my heart I need to let go of, but today as we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating the freedom I have from sin, from bondage, from chains of falsehood and deception. I am celebrate that the Lord has changed me from the inside and he will change me even more. I long for freedom to live in the the truth, and I know the only way to break free and really change is by having the Lord change me, from the inside!

A few months ago when the truth of God’s character started to deeply impact my heart and my thinking I began growing and learning in ways I had never known. Although I recognized immediate changes each step of the way, it has taken time for God’s truth to sink in and start to make deep changes to the untruths and lack of faith that was so deeply ingrained into many areas of my life. I had still believed that my sin was keeping me from a righteous relationship with God instead of understanding that Christ has set me free and changed me forever.

Lately I feel like I have been drinking from a firehose. I have been growing and learning so much, so fast. The changes are things I can’t even put words to yet, but daily I am becoming more profoundly aware of the Lord’s presence in my life and the changes that are occurring.

I watched the Matrix the other night. I feel like Neo did in the movie as his mind was being opened to the truth of the real world versus the lies he had known and thought were real. Morpheus challenged Neo and pushed him. In explanation he said, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

That is very similar to what the Lord wants to do for us. He wants to free us from the things we have believed and the limited views we have known. He wants to open our minds to truth, possibilities, and opportunities. He wants us to become the people he has created us to be. It is up to us to believe and to walk in his truth. Faith is more than just asking and hoping, it is walking as if the prayer has been answered and we are changed. Morpheus later told him, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” I believe there are many like me who have made a commitment to Christ in the past, but who never learned how to move from knowing to walking the Christian faith out in a powerful way in their everyday life. Many of us have never been taught how to live as Christians who are radically altered by the Gospel.

The more I come to understand 1) Who he is 2) Who I am because of what Christ did and how that made me a new creation, it is radically altering my life. I have never known the freedom, joy, hope, love, power, and strength that I know live with. It is my prayer that others will also find this truth. Not only will it change their lives, but I truly believe that what I am learning about is the Gospel that Christ promised would change the world.

I had a good discussion with someone this week about responsibility. An insurance company has a commercial out talking about responsibility. I like the commercial, but sometimes as I watch it I am left feeling that it is easy to do the right thing. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it involves other people it can be very messy.

If I make a decision to share information with someone I have made a choice. I am responsible for the choice I made to share. The other person would not have known the information if I had not shared. They are responsible for their choices regarding what they do with the information, but I am still responsible for the information I shared in the first place. That is exactly the situation from my last church. I made a choice to share information with T. She was a leader of a home group, the second eldest woman in the church, and by all I could see of her life she is a believer who is seeking to live a Godly life. I shared my story and my struggles with her and asked her for help. My intentions were good and were not to hurt anyone but were to work through all issues and resolve any conflicts that existed.

I made a choice.

I choose to share my story with T.

My choice cost me.

I believe T was well-intentioned, but I have learned that she does not have the best judgment about what and how to share with others. What T did and said are between her and God. I can only be responsible for my decisions and actions.

I am responsible for my decisions and actions.

When we do or say something we are responsible for it. Our feelings might change from when we first said something, but we are still responsible for what we said. Our heart might have been in the right place but our words may not have adequately reflected our heart…we are still responsible for our words.

In this case the things I shared with T made it back to the pastor and he interpreted it as me speaking against him. That was never my heart and I do not believe my words said anything like this, however I did share that there was relational and communication struggle between us. Due to this I was charged with disunity. I didn’t stand in front of the church body or even a group of people and say anything that blatantly opposed the pastor. I told a woman my story in confidence. I had prayerfully considered speaking with her. I went with a heart that wanted to work through things and not hurt anyone. However, I still made the choice to share.

I have to accept the fact that I did speak in a manner that caused disunity.

I have to accept that I stood against my pastor because I told someone that conflict existed.

It wasn’t my heart to hurt anyone, but in reality I did.

It wasn’t my heart to cause disunity, but in reality I did.

I did seek to share my story with others, but in reality it was shared.

I turned to a friend to seek counsel and guidance, but the friend I turned to was a bad choice.

I came seeking assistance to resolve things, but because I choose the wrong person the conflict grew.

I wanted to find resolve, but instead I took comfort in the fact that T shared some concerns and frustrations she had regarding the direction of the church. That was gossip and it was wrong.

I wanted to walk through the struggle with others, to be in community, to share life with others, but I did not do that in a healthy manner.

I am learning that taking responsibility and admitting our faults and shortcomings is hard, because our mistakes are not always made with an intentional heart.

I take responsibility for my words, my actions, and my choices. I was hurtful and sinful in the choices I made and I have to walk through the repercussions of those decisions. I repent of those choices and would not make them again.

In my case that means I can’t have relationship with people I love. I am not able to share life and faith with people I consider family. I am not granted forgiveness by leaders and others that I consider friends. The price I have to pay is high for the choices I made, but that happens at times. Many people have had to pay prices for being on a road when a car accident took place, being in a town when a natural disaster took place, or being at a wrong place at the wrong time.

Responsibility is hard, very hard, but I am learning that it is important to take responsibility. It is what a person of integrity, character, and truth should do. It is what I as a Christian believe Christ asks me to do.

Have you ever questioned what grace and forgiveness really look like? What is the standard that God wants us to live by? Are there times that it is okay to not forgive?

As I read scripture I see a message that forgiveness and grace should mark the lives of believers and everything we do should come from a heart that has been transformed to overflow with love. This story is a great example of what love and grace look like, even to an enemy that would take your life if you were standing in a different location.

 

On Palm Sunday morning, April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee put on his finest dress uniform, mounted Traveller, and rode away from his tired and tattered troops to Appomatox, where he would surrender his beaten army to General Ulysses S. Grant.  As Lee rode to meet his conqueror, he fully expected that his men would be herded like cattle into railroad cars and taken to a Union prison and that he, as their general, would be tried and executed as a disgraced traitor.

In the tidy living room of the home where the vanquished and the victor met, Lee asked Grant what his terms of surrender were to be.  Grant told Lee that his men were free to take their horses with them and go back to their little farms and that Lee too was free to go home and create a new life.  Lee offered Grant his sword; Grant refused it. Lee heaved a sigh; he came expecting to be humiliated, and he left with dignity and honor.  As he watched General Lee mount Traveller and ride back to his troops, Grant took off his hat and saluted his defeated enemy.  It was a gracious grace.  And it deeply affected the defeated general: as long as he lived, Lee allowed no critical word of Grant to be spoken in his presence.  Grace graciously given honors our worth as it overlooks our undeserving. (From Shame and Grace by Lewis B. Smedes, p.120)

“Believing we should be able to do what we could not do, and endlessly trying to control what we could not control, left us in our own insanity.  It was only when we grew sick and tired of our own insanity that we were able to recognize that our lives have become unmanageable.  And it was only then that we were ready to learn new lessons in humility.  Surrender helped to restore our sanity.  We could not do for our son any of what we, as his parents, wanted so desperately to do.  We could not.  That simple truth was excruciatingly painful, and yet it was wonderfully green.  And it ultimately was what opened the door for our healing as parents and for our healing as a family, because healing only occurs as we lived in that humble truth and got out of God’s Way.  We stopped trying to do what only God could do when we humbly admitted, ‘we cannot.’”

“To truly surrender we must come to the end of our attempts to run our own lives.  Once we are clear on the futility of our own spiritual efforts and the need for God’s help and guidance, we can turn our lives over the God’s care and direction.  As long as some part of us is holding out and believing that we can make our lives better if we just try a little harder, we will find it difficult to fully surrender.  Thus, surrendering to God’s love and grace becomes a process of releasing more and more of our self-reliance as we grow in faith.” (from Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan)

Have you come to the point of true surrender to God? I can’t happen until you reach the end of yourself and realize your incredible need for God, to be saved by him, to be embraced by him, to be trained by him, to be loved by him.

This has been my journey over the last few weeks, reaching a point where I finally said “I cannot” and “I don’t even want to try to any more”. Sometimes God will take us there through circumstances and discipline but we don’t need to wait until we are at the end of our ropes. It has to do with the condition of your heart and your willingness and desire to be like him. I pray that you will find surrender to God because there truly is no safer, better, and more fruitful place to be.