Confession: I didn’t have a ‘Word of the Year’ last year…but if I could put a word to last year it would be: hope. (In all honesty, my first thought was—survive. But that’s another story for another day.)
Over the past year, I have amassed a playlist titled Hopeful Songs. Spotify tells me it is 16 hours and 33 minutes long. I keep adding to it. The latest song, Firm Foundation (He Won’t) reminds me
"Christ is my firm foundation, the rock on which I stand when everything around me is shaken, I’ve never been more glad that I put my faith in Jesus ‘cause He's never let me down. He’s faithful through generations, so why would He fail me now? He won’t."
[That playlist started from two books that got me over the hump of last year (from Survive to HOPE)—both by Dr. Michelle Bengtson. ‘Today is Going To Be a Good Day’ and ‘Hope Prevails – Insight from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression.” Each section ends with a suggested playlist. That got me started… If you’re interested in my playlist, I am happy to share.]
THIS 2024 year the word that intrigues me is --indifferent. I know.
Stick with me here...
I was introduced to a unique nuance of this word by Ruth Haley Barton. In her book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership -Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, each chapter includes a spiritual practice to ensure your soul gets the nourishment it needs. In the last part of the book, she looks at DISCERNING GOD'S WILL TOGETHER. She shares a process leaders can incorporate. Part of the process is the concept of INDIFFERENCE.
After robust discussion and listening to God and to one another, the group prays asking God for direction until each member can be indifferent to any particular idea except for wanting only what the Lord wants. This struck me as a very good thing for all of us. ALL the time.
The word indifferent itself doesn’t sit quite right with me because of some of the other connotations it carries with it. So the word I am considering is surrender. I think it carries the same idea but in a ‘cleaner’ way.
Jesus shows us what this looks like in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was betrayed. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) And when He teaches the disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9)
I have been re-reading The Renovation of the Heart – Putting on the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard and I noticed (for the first time) that there is a fluttering blank white flag waving on the front cover. (BTW: The white flag of surrender was written into the Geneva Conventions in the 19th century as the official international symbol of surrender.)
What does it mean to surrender? My Google search revealed, “Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”
What does it look like for me to cease resisting and submit to God’s authority?
If I want to submit to His will with confidence and peace It starts with being able to say, “Your will be done,”
I must trust in God’s good and loving character toward me.
Hmmm, I’m often quite attached to my idea of what is right and good.
My needs, desires, opinions, and comfort often take the lead. And they easily rule my heart.
I’m learning that when my flesh rules my heart it results in bondage—a lack of hope, peace, and joy. Stress. Depression. Anxiety. Addiction.
And surprisingly, surrendering to Christ and allowing Him to rule my heart leads to freedom. Hope. Peace. Joy. Forgiveness. Contentment.
Second, to 'wave the white flag' I must see there is a God.
And I am not god. I find I want to be god.
"As Augustine stated, God being God offends human pride.
"If God is running the universe and has first claim on our lives, guess who isn't running the universe, and does not get to have things as they please. (ouch!)
Philip Yancey tells us,
The historian of Alcoholics Anonymous titled his work Not-God because, he said, that stands as the most important hurdle an addicted person must surmount:
to acknowledge, deep in the soul, not being God.
No mastery of manipulation and control, at which alcoholics excel, can overcome the root problem; rather the alcoholic must recognize individual helplessness and fall back in the arms of the Higher Power. "First of all, we had to quit playing God," and then allow God Himself to "play God," in the addict's life, which involves daily, even moment-by-moment, surrender." (Renovation of the Heart, p.52)
Surrender or complete submission to God means that man himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him (Galatians 2:20) This death to self is key. As John Calvin once remarked,
"For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever He leads. Let this, then, be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God. "
So as 2024 rolls out and I encounter the ups and downs of life--suffering, disappointment, trials, anxiety, sad thoughts, discouragement, rejection, confusion, discomfort, and challenges I can remember these building blocks of truth:
God is God.
God only does what is most loving for me.
He always knows what is best for me.
And He is the supreme authority and all things are under His control.
And because of this firm foundation, I can surrender to Him
(and be indifferent to my own will and way).