Today, Christian writer and book blogger, Nikole Hahn, invited me to be a guest on her blog. I saw this as a great opportunity to introduce the complicated topic of surrender as the key ingredient of a peaceful heart.
Surrender is a loaded word conjuring up images of defeat. Growing up with five brothers I learned early on that only the strong survived. Life was about winning. Our days were a series of board games, contests and secret clubs in the attic where we had to prove our worth to belong. Surrender was unthinkable unless you were being dangled by your feet over the third floor stairwell, and even then you did it with your fingers crossed behind your back. Surrender was for sissies.
This philosophy framed my thinking as I ventured out into the world. I would win at that, too. I knew the rules. I knew how to be nice to others and work hard. Winning was fantastic! That is, until I started losing. Losing sleep, losing interest, losing a sense of real meaning and purpose to life amidst all of the frenetic activity and endless repetition that filled my days. Something important was missing.
My marriage and family began to fall apart, and I along with it. I was so tired of competing that I wanted to fling the game board across the room and turn my head so I didn’t see where the pieces of my life scattered. One bleak day, I raised my white flag and did the unthinkable. I gave up and put my future in God’s hands. When I look back now, I see that it had nothing to do with weakness.
Surrendering was the strongest moment of my life.
Choosing surrender as a lifestyle is about letting go of shoulds and musts and embracing life as it unfolds. It is about living in the present and accepting ambiguity as part of a divine process. Trusting in a greater power to teach, guide and reveal opportunity for good works when the time is right. Accepting that each of us is a Helper Bee and not the Queen. The moment I stopped controlling outcomes and threw away the almighty checklist was the moment magic, grace and profound peace found their way back into my days.
It’s difficult to let go of cultural expectation. From a very young age we are taught, consciously and subconsciously, what “happiness” is supposed to look like. Surrender demands that we push our hand, palm out and fingers spread wide, against the seductive pull of a materialistic culture that promises a deep, lasting peace it cannot provide. Letting go of these limiting cultural myths and norms allows us the freedom to reach within ourselves and find out who we are meant to be.
One of my favorite mantras when traveling is “Let the trip take you.” This attitude takes the unnecessary pressure of expectation out of the journey and introduces the joy of adventure, the element of surprise when you happen upon something delightful that you never could have planned. I now apply this in a broader sense to my life.
The fruit of surrender is real joy. Give it a try, one tiny white flag wave at a time!