Below is a paragraph from Gerald May’s Care of Mind/Care of Spirit about “true surrender.” How often do we offer what we think is surrender when it is really a thin guise for something a little more selfish? May we discover that every door of invited surrender, no matter how scary it may look, is a doorway into God’s places of greater freedom and grace for us.
“The misplaced and distorted surrenders associated with both spiritual ‘cop-outs’ and spiritual narcissism fail to meet the criteria for legitimate spiritual surrender. These criteria require that the surrender: (a) be a conscious act, (b) be freely and intentionally chosen, (c) involve acceptance of responsibility for the act of surrendering and all it consequences, and (d) not be directed towards any delimitable fully known object. (Gerald G. May. Care of Mind/Care of Spirit. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1982, 1992, p. 101-02)
False surrenders. I realize that I’ve offered many such surrenders to God in the past. I’ve offered the shriveled up “cop-out” surrender of loveless resignation to Him many times. He longs to draw from me a hearty, loving, and willing surrender to Him.
At other times, I’ve offered the surrender of spiritual narcissism in which I saw myself quite the Christian hero for my willingness to surrender in this or that situation. There was little true surrender offered because it was simply one more way to feed my own self-love and self-satisfaction. I wanted to be admired by others as I took the podium to offer my distinguished and valiant surrender. I think of my surrenders in the midst of outward trial in the early ’90s, in which some put Gem and I on a spiritual pedestal. And what did I do to stop them? How puffed up I became…but only, of course, in the most spiritual possible way.
I am not often drawn to make the surrender of the unknown, the surrender of the nobody. I want my surrender to get me some medal of spiritual recognition from others around me. At least a bronze medal of another noticing and admiring my surrender. Forgive me; Father, for those ways that my pride and self-love find ways to be fed with what I intend to be a spiritual act of worship before You. My self-reliance is so insidious.
True surrender, according to what May is saying here, has four critical qualities. It must be a conscious act. I must choose to surrender to God. There is no auto-surrender. There is no true surrender that I do not participate in by loving faith.
Second, true surrender is freely and intentionally chosen. I am not being subjected to God against my will like an animal forced to do the will of its master. I am being lovingly invited into a freely chosen surrender.
Third, true surrender involves acceptance of responsibility of the consequences of my surrender. Surrender is not resignation. I can’t avoid my responsibilities or accountabilities by giving them up to God. I cannot claim that “it wasn’t my fault” and blame God because I surrendered such things to Him.
Finally, I cannot fully comprehend the nature of my surrender. In a sense, surrender is a matter of faith, not of sight. I may see the outlines of my surrender, or may know one side of my surrender, but I cannot fully know and define my surrender to God.
Much of this is still quite mysterious to me, Father. I offer myself again to You today. May You use my life in ways that please You and extend Your kingdom reign in and around me. May the offering of myself be a good thing in Your sight. Use me as You wish, Father. Make me more attentive and responsive to Your promptings and guidings.