The early morning coffee helped me wade through words from C.S. Lewis. “The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires.”
As this day rolled by, ideas of surrender began a hostile takeover of my thinking. It seems surrender comes to all regardless of income, religion, or ethnicity. Surrender comes either forcedly or willfully. In Genesis 9, Ham is forced to surrender blessings for a curse because of not handling his father Noah’s drunkenness and nakedness properly. Interesting. For all who breathe, either willful surrender will happen to the One who is worthy, or forced surrender to the one who oversees sin, death, and the earth’s fallen curse.
When Jesus offers a strict, conditional state of discipleship like what is found in Luke 9:23, do we say like some, “Lord, I will go wherever you want me to go?” Following calls for surrender. Surrender is rarely comfortable. Does this mean hut life in Africa awaits for those who are willing to surrender?
An early morning, bright orange fluorescent, two-piece swimming suit is headed my direction. As an all-American male, I have the right to look, don’t I? Everyone does, don’t they? How’s that whole analogy of just looking at the menu go again? Often, the Holy Spirit prompts me to think of Sherry just yards behind my beach chair watching to see if I will look. Gawk might be a better word. Do I want what’s walking my way? Would I sacrifice my wife and kids for THAT? Isn’t that somebody’s daughter, and I have three of those?! Isn’t my wife, who’s married to the pastor, really the smokin’ hot one? (the absolute answer is YES… just in case Sherry reads this) I look away and back down at my book like a nerd in a frat house. Of course, better to be a nerd with a great family than losing it all because I’m just too cool for school. Turns out, Sherry wasn’t behind me, but Jesus was right beside me. It was a battle of surrender. This time I won.
We went to a Christian kid’s camp last week. Many adult faculty surrendered vacation time, healthy food, sleep, and the comforts of home to point 4th, 5th, and 5th graders to Jesus. Sherry and I decided to take a great kid with us to camp this year. Anderson is the same age and grade as Michael. At one point I thought otherwise about an extra rider in the van. What if the kid got home sick? What if something happened? What if… not having Anderson go with us was just more comfortable? It was a matter of surrender. Anderson had such a great time.
The battles and victories of surrender are fought by some everyday. Others fail to see it. A husband surrenders his preferences to his wife’s wishes. A mother surrenders a needed nap to a child needing quality mom time. A Jesus follower surrenders the smell of a new car in order to fund Kingdom initiatives at church. Surrender. It’s what we’re called to by the One who calls us.
I wonder if surrender must be fought and won on a micro level, before Jesus moves us onto a macro level type surrender. If I can win the fluorescent two-piece fight, maybe Jesus will trust me with more. This will require more surrender, but inevitably will bring with it more Kingdom life. Will hut life in Africa be the end result? It’s possible. For most, messy spirituality with hurting people who live in a very close proximity is more probable. It all hinges on surrender.
Surrender is appropriate for Cumberland as well. We must surrender our need to feel warm and fuzzy about serving the poor to greater, less toxic ideas of developing the assets, leadership, and potential of those who are broken. Our positions of superiority need to be surrendered. Our status of being the servers and givers need to be surrendered so the dignity of the receivers remains in tact. Our driven ambitions to help and fix must be surrendered to listening, learning, and helping broken folks realize their full capacities. Instead of pridefully focusing on the quality of our service by taking over, our surrender might be best played out in roles of facilitators and connectors for those needing help. I might have to surrender my identity cementing role as leader to community leaders who need to lead for greater effectiveness.
“Toxic Charity” has helped me to think about checks and balances as we move forward with our restoration ministries at Cumberland. Shifting from betterment to development will require surrender and some rethinking to traditional volunteer-driven, we-can-fix-it service.
God has awakened our church to a bigger, EPIC gospel story. We know God’s story is more than just redemption and getting us to heaven someday, somehow, somewhere. The gospel is also about restoration of our lives and others. I remember last year’s study break messages so vividly. Our awakening and calling is to be effective with an EPIC gospel to hurting, receptive people. Our God given task is to form relationships, develop inclusionary ministry and allow for the transformation (not just rescuing) of folks through HIS power. This is clearly where God is leading through the restoration power of Jesus’s EPIC gospel. May we be faithful, open to change, and begin doing WITH people instead of merely doing FOR people in ways that can hurt. God help us not to harm. God help us not to be toxic as we serve and help and make disciples of Jesus. God help us to surrender.