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Surrender

I remember sitting in the big church house, just a little girl swinging her legs back and forth under the pew.  My mother and father are on either side of me.  Familiar faces surround me.  The organ plays strong and the piano accompanies.  The leader at the front sings,

“I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.”

And my tender, simple child-heart surrendered to Jesus.

I grew older.  My feet touched the floor as I sat up straight and listened to the sermon.  And once again, I heard the invitation, “Surrender. All.”  I left my comfortable place on the pew and went forward to kneel at the altar.  I cried and surrendered.  I thought it was my all.

How many times have I prayed that prayer?  Too many to remember, too many to count.  Each time I thought I was surrendering it all.  And perhaps I was.  Perhaps each time of my surrender, it was all I knew to give to my Savior.  Perhaps that is the gentle way of our Lord, to call for another surrender and another as He reveals my heart to me and says, “Do you love me more than these?”

I don’t always understand the ways of the Spirit’s working.  He is mysterious.  He is patience and persistent.  He is full of grace.  And He is tenacious and unrelenting and unwilling to let me stay the way I am when there is so much more.  There is an abundant life in His presence where there is fullness of joy and He wants that for me.  It is His desire that I get there somehow, someway, at a place of surrender.

And oh, I want that!  That full-to-overflowing life where I am ever aware of being in the presence of my Lord and I am filled with joy.

But sometimes it alludes me.  And once again I am called to surrender.  Once again, I bow to His will and relinquish.

The plan of Christmas was a surrendering.

God surrendered His One and only Son for the purpose of paying humanity’s unpayable sin debt.

Jesus surrendered His life and the glories of Heaven to be confined to an earthly existence with all the pain that would accompany it.

Mary surrendered her body and her reputation to the Holy Spirit, a vessel of life for a Baby like no other.

Joseph surrendered his honor, his plans, his future because of a dream and a command to obedience.

Shepherds and wise men surrendered their common existence to seek out the miracle that would change them forever.

You and I, we have the opportunity to surrender to the Christ Child who came to offer so much more than what we cling to.  I’ve grasped for what I thought was mine, holding on with clinched fist, expecting it would bring me a forever and complete happiness.

It didn’t.

And so today, I surrender again.  I surrender all that is in my hand and all my hand reaches for, all my heart’s longings, all my hopes and dreams.  I surrender all.

Tomorrow I will do it again.

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart  and my portion( forever.”

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Living with open hands

I read a book years ago called Open Heart, Open Home which was aimed at hospitality.  I gleaned from it how to welcome people into the home even on the days when it was in less than pristine condition.  I struggled with that early in my marriage, wanting everything perfect before company came.  It was an impossible dream.  Learning to open my home without all the pressure of perfection was a great relief, and seeing it as a ministry was something I could embrace.  I could focus on my guests rather than trying to be the ultimate hostess.

The concept of open heart has evolved for me over the years as well. I am basically an introvert who is willing to be in the background, the listener of conversations, comfortable with my non-voice.  As a result I have been perceived as aloof, unfriendly, and stuck up. That is not the persona I wanted so I made the effort to become less shy, more open, and welcome people into my heart.  Again the focus was on others, and less about me.

It’s taking a lifetime of learning for God to bring me even close to the person I was meant to be.  I’m nearer than I was but a long way from being there.

Recently I have been making the effort to live with open hands, a concept that should not be new to me, but it has recently become a guiding light.  Perhaps it is because my own plans have run aground so many times in the last several years.  Perhaps because I’ve finally given in to not being in control at all. Perhaps because what I wanted most was not within my grasp and what’s a girl to do with that?

“Living with expectations kills relationships,” I read and am finding it profoundly true.  My unmet expectations produce frustration, anger, resentment, and discontent.  And that is not a happy place to live.

I’m figuring out that even the best laid plans of mice and men and me do so often go awry.  Can I be at peace with that or will I flail against the reality that what I think I want isn’t going to materialize?  Can I be joyful in whatever state I am in?  Can I learn to be content with less than hoped for by opening my hands and living without expectations of others fulfilling my wishes?

I am making the effort.  I find my hands clenched too often, holding onto, grasping for what I believe will make me happy.  But then happy is transient and when it flies away like the summer butterfly, what is left but a fist full of unmet expectations.

I can only pray for the grace and help to do what I know I need to do, live with open hands.  It goes against my selfish nature, but I want to live in servant-hood reality not in a serve-me fantasy.

So I pray,

“Lord and Maker of all, You knew me before anyone else.  You chose my personality.  You gave me gifts to be used to bless others.  You continue to work to form me into the image of Your beloved Son who made the role of Servant the highest and best job description.  He lived with open hands, always reaching out to give, to heal, to restore, hands that invited others to come but always gave them the choice.  Please make me more like Jesus.”

And open hands are ready and waiting to be filled with good things, unexpected blessings, just what I needed all along.

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