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2149 N. Green Bay Road
Racine, WI 53405

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Terms of Surrender

Surrender, or learning to release control is more than just letting someone else decide what you’re going to do for dinner, or what color you’re going to paint the walls, or where you’re going to go on vacation. The essence of releasing control is an interior process which manifests itself outwardly.

As we grow up, we’re told repeatedly: you can be anything you want to be, just try harder, just practice more, don’t give up, put your nose to the grindstone, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, if at first you don’t succeed, etc. Our culture is full of language that tells us that we can take the world by the horns and make it do exactly what we want. We can have control. We can make our own destiny. It’s as if we’re being brainwashed to believe that we can control everything in our lives. The concept of letting go, going with the flow of a process, or job, or whatever, isn’t really taught or even talked about. Maybe it isn’t even a “thing” for most people. So, the concept of an inner process, a spiritual process, of letting go and surrender is, perhaps, even more foreign.

Mark Nepo, in his book, The One Life We’re Given, shares this story:

Twelve hundred years ago, the Chinese poet Po Chu-I recounted in a poem how he became lost while traveling on horseback. With a sudden urgency, he began prodding the horse to push on, to go here, then there. After a time, he exhausted himself and fell asleep in the saddle. While dozing, his reins slackened. It seemed like an instant, but he’d gone a hundred lengths. When he awoke, the horse had found a better way. Only while asleep would he loosen his grip and give up control, and the horse, which seemed to wait for this chance, carried him easily. This is the tension between will and surrender. We push and push, insisting we know the way, even when we’re lost. 

Sometimes the more we try and push at a problem in our lives, the more stuck, frustrated and upset we get. And yet the concept that we just need to “push through” is something we hear all the time!

Here’s another great image. When I was about 12, our family took a trip to Colorado. One day my dad, my younger brother and I were all going to go tubing down a nearby river. The plan was that my mom would drive us there, drop us off with our inner tubes and then pick us back up two hours later down river. She dropped us off in a big field, about a city block from the river, and pulled off (probably to enjoy some much needed quiet time) and we trudged through the long grass to the river. When we arrived, we found – much to our chagrin – that the river was flowing in the opposite direction we thought it would be flowing! Somewhere during the trip we’d crossed over the Continental Divide and everything was flowing the opposite way! This was long before cell phones, and there was no one else around, so we spent the next two hours pushing our inner tubes upstream. I’m still not sure how we eventually re-connected with my mom.

This is how tough it can be sometimes when we have to be in control and do things our way. We end up pushing the darn inner tubes upstream instead of checking in with the direction of the flow and then letting the river carry us and do the work.

So, consider spiritual surrender as an inner process of connecting with the Universal Flow of all things.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust Yahweh with all your heart,
and don’t rely on your own understanding;
acknowledge God in everything you do,
and God will direct your paths.

This speaks of learning to trust our intuition, the deep inner knowing that gets covered up with distractions, anxiety, expectations, baggage and yes, our need to control things.

We’d much prefer to have terms of surrender! God, I’ll listen to you and follow your lead if you promise my life won’t change, I won’t have to risk, I won’t be uncomfortable, etc. We want control even in our spiritual letting go! It’s really an oxymoron. You’re not really surrendering if there are terms involved.

Etty Hillesum is a great example of learning to fully connect with the Divine within. Etty was born in 1914, in Holland, the child of parents who were emotionally unavailable and physically unaffectionate. In addition, her mother (and her two brothers) struggled with severe mental illness, making the household a very negative place to be. She herself described her home as “degenerate,” “tainted”, a “madhouse.” When she was old enough, she left home to go to school in Amsterdam, but was a deeply troubled young woman. She had multiple intimate relationships with men much older than she, including the therapist she saw to try and “come to grips with herself.” At the same time, the Nazi presence was increasing in Amsterdam. Her diaries were written between the ages of 27 and 29 and describe the deep spiritual transformation that happened to her even in the midst of a chaotic world.

Etty was Jewish by birth, but not brought up in a religious household. Her growing relationship with the Divine had nothing to do with going to worship services or following any specific rules or doctrine. Through the simple practice of sitting quietly each morning, not thinking, but listening to, what was going on inside her, she gradually became aware of her “soul landscape,” a broad open space like endless plains that stretched out inside of her. As she continued the meditation or prayer time each morning, she became more calm, more patient and she was slowly released from the chaos and anxiety that had been so much a part of her growing up, and filled so much of the world around her. This spiritual practice, often involving kneeling, grounded her, and brought her peace. Even when she was helping those who were imprisoned, or was imprisoned herself, she able to draw strength from the deeply hidden resources within herself.

It was opening up and surrendering to the vulnerable presence of god within that gave her wisdom beyond her years, kept her from succumbing to fear, hatred, anger and hopelessness, and enabled her to be a comfort to others, even unto her own death at Auschwitz.

I want that.

I want to be that grounded in Spirit.

I want to be calm in the face of chaos.

I want to be loving in the face of hatred.

I want to trust that God loves me enough to guide me to take the next best step in my life.

I want to follow my heart and my intuition because I know that God’s voice speaks to me there.

I want to spiritually, fully surrender without terms, to trust that deeply, to know and be known that fully.

I don’t want to hold onto the reigns so tightly that I can’t be guided in the right direction. Nor do I want to ignore the direction of the flow and find myself walking, pushing upstream.

Quiet time. Time to intentionally listen to the Divine Presence. Surrendering. I’m convinced that the more we make an effort, the more we listen and follow, the more in line we’ll be with the Energy of Love.

Love & Light!