In Acts, Christians were accused of turning the world “upside down” as they followed in Jesus’ footsteps who said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Trying to grasp what the Kingdom of Heaven is like is finding yourself with Alice in Wonderland where “nothing is as it seems.” The Kingdom of God is always upside down from what we initially expect it to be. What seem to be opposites actually fit together like keys into a lock opening doors unlooked for. Many of Jesus’ sayings sound paradoxical – you must lose your life to find it. Jesus told his followers that they must deny themselves and take up their cross. And then He says that no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for him and the gospel would fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age! How do these two things fit together?
The interesting thing is that Jesus does not technically use the word “surrender” here. In fact, no where in the KJV is the word “surrender” used. What Jesus does commend with great frequency is “losing”, “leaving”, “dying”, “denying”…. but in the same breath Jesus almost always speaks of the reward – the return on your investment. We are reminded that our willingness to lose our lives is so that we may ever surely find it. We are assured that anyone who has left the comforts of home will receive far more than they left behind. We are told that unless we die, we can never be fruitful.
The word “surrender” can sometimes conjure up the image that God is fighting against us in some way, but nothing can be further from the truth. He is just explaining the way to life and spiritual abundance is not through self-protection but through a radical denial and death of self, loss of self-sufficiency, and a continual attitude of yieldedness. We would never guess this. It is not what we expect. As G.K. Chesterton says, “…an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition.”
I was thinking about this in terms of my current book project. I notice that I hit pockets of deep reluctance to expose personal or vulnerable areas of my life or sometimes even lack motivation to write at all…
I wondered how much of that reluctance is tied up in the idea of not wanting to let go of my words into a public space where they can be critiqued, evaluated, dismissed, overlooked. I wonder if I hold my words and stories close to my chest because I am afraid to let go of them, afraid to see them die on the page in front of everyone. I don’t want to surrender them to the page and the public because once I let go of them I cannot control their fate or protect them. I cannot direct the outcome or the influence of their presence in the lives of others.
But as I thought about the word “surrender” today, I realize that it is not an intimidating word, but a word of invitation. If I can think of my writing as not my own – not my own act of self-creation that I need to watch over as an extension of myself. If I can see writing more as a daily discipline of yielding the treasure of my life to God, a daily entrusting of my life to Him even to the point of death – even death on a page. Then it becomes an intimate meeting place with my crucified Lord. He invites me to come to that white page, to be vulnerable and to offer up my stories to Him. I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.
He alone is the Source of all life and He alone can breathe life anew into all that I offer upon the altar and multiply its fruitfulness many times over.