Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was one of the youth sponsors at my home church in Humble. There were about two dozen teenagers in our group, and those five years were some of the sweetest I’ve ever known. This was an exceptional group of kids – generous, funny, loving, talented, compassionate, and always good for a few surprises. One of the projects they undertook during this time was a musical. I don’t remember the name of it, but one of the songs I do still remember was called “Surrender.” It was the theme of the production. I have found myself thinking about those kids and that time quite a bit lately, and the idea of surrender calls to me even more.
Lately I’ve found that several of my students are struggling daily with the idea of surrendering. They want to be in complete control of their behavior, of their classmates’ behavior, even of my behavior, and when they find that to be impossible, they respond with tremendous anger and frustration. They remind me of a little bird whipped into a frenzy, beating frantically at the bars of the cage, desperate to get out and terrified that they’ll never be able to. It breaks my heart, because I have never looked at boundaries as cages. In my life the boundaries my parents established for me were loving reminders of their watchcare. I didn’t resent those limits like so many of my friends and peers did, and like some of my students do now. Maybe that parental love and care set me on a path of easier acceptance when it came to Godly boundaries in my life. I’m not saying that I’ve never gotten frustrated or angry at some of the boundaries that have restrained me, nor will I ever do a perfect job of living within those boundaries, but I’ve never fought for my own way against my parents, or my husband, or the Lord. (I’ve got plenty of other sins to pick up the slack I’m happy to have found in this particular area!)
Still, it is worth thinking about. If we want out own way so much that we’re willing to hurt others to get it, if we insist that we know better than someone else in a position of authority, whether that be boss, teacher, police officer, public official, minister, parent, you get the idea, then we have made control into an idol in our lives. We’re essentially saying that we know better than the person in authority. We are refusing to bow to that leader, to his or her ideas or decisions because we believe we know more than he or she does. Ultimately, if we insist on our own way to the detriment of our relationship with that person, that job, whatever, then we are living in rebellion against God as well. We have essentially said that we aren’t willing to relinquish control to anyone else because we don’t trust his or her expertise, his or her care over us, his or her understanding of the rules, of the employment policies. We aren’t willing to trust God to work everything out according to His will for our lives. We all know people who want to be in that kind of control. Their lives are filled with frustration and anxiety. They beat at their own cages and damage so much in their lives. I hurt for my students who are already exhibiting that kind of arrogance. I wonder what kind of happiness they’re going to find in their lives down the road. Having to be right all the time is a lonely place to be.
God doesn’t want us to live with that kind of iron-fisted control in our lives. He calls us to trust instead. He tells us in John that He is the vine and we are the branches and without Him we can do nothing. I’m okay with that arrangement. There are too many tough decisions that I have to make in my everyday life as it is. I couldn’t manage at all if I tried to wrest God’s control from Him and handle it myself. What a mess! Surrendering to His control in our lives, trusting that He is working all things for our good, comes with a freedom that is incomparable to anything else we can know. He’s God! We need to let Him be God.
“Like a song in the wind, He is calling again . . . surrender.”