Surrender is seldom viewed as a positive quality in popular culture. We want to locate ourselves with the winners. Victory is more appealing to most of us than the prospect of surrender.

Surrender is what happens to losers. It feels like giving up. To surrender is to be defeated. The victor imposes his will upon the one who surrenders. When I imagine surrender it feels like I will be rendered powerless. Surrender means facing the prospect that life may not turn out as I wish.

But, curiously, in most spiritual traditions surrender is viewed as the key to the spiritual life. Most spiritual paths teach that surrender is the gateway to depth, authenticity, compassion, and to an awareness of the presence and action of God in all of life.

The life of Jesus was bookended by surrender. His birth was made possible by an act of complete surrender when Mary responded to the angel’s strange and unsettling announcement of incarnation saying,

‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.(Luke 1:38)

Though the pregnancy the angel predicted for Mary would plunge her life into uncertainty, even danger, she accepted the path laid out for her without resistance. She did not understand where this prophecy would lead, but she did not fight against life as it was unfolding.

At the end of his life, Jesus faced by the horror of crucifixion, prayed to God asking,

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.

No one wants crucifixion. Jesus did not look forward to the cross with dispassion. But Jesus did not give in to his natural resistance to the pain and suffering he saw on the horizon. He did not fight against the path that lay ahead even though he saw it was going to lead him to face rejection, injustice, violence, loneliness, and deep suffering. Faced with the horror of crucifixion, Jesus chose to surrender saying to God,

yet, not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Jesus’ teaching was permeated by the call to surrender.

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.(Luke 9:23)

I cannot carry my “cross daily” without letting go of everything else. Cross carrying is only possible with a surrendered heart.

Surrender means showing up with all of myself where I am, no matter what my circumstances may be. It means acknowledging the reality of my situation and giving up the futile attempt to resist what is. It requires a willingness to let go of my demand that things should be different than they are. To surrender is to let go of any expectation that life must unfold according to my needs, wants, demands, or desires.

Surrender takes place when I am no longer willing to pay the price of resistance.

Resistance is futile; it seldom changes anything. It simply increases tension and anxiety. It obscures my vision of reality. When I am braced against life as it is, I am not occupying a place within myself where it is possible to make positive, life-giving choices and decisions.

Surrender is not resignation. When I surrender I am not laying down and playing dead. I am opening to a deeper reality. I am affirming that the meaning and purpose of life do not lie in getting my way or making my external circumstances turn out as I wish.

Surrender opens me to the reality of the present moment. It allows me to see more clearly and, ironically, to act more boldly and wisely within the reality of my circumstances as they are. To surrender is to open to the movement of love which is the deep wisdom that has the power to guide me to a place of abiding well-being no matter what my circumstances may be.


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