A little girl is playing outside, full of energy and imagination. Her mother calls her in for a meal and says, “It’s time to sit down sweetie.”
Instead, the little girl zooms by the table, grabbing a piece of food, popping it in her mouth on the way to her toys.
The mother calls her over again to the table, “It’s time to sit down now.”
In that moment, all the energy and imagination of youth makes this a battle between the good guy and the bad guy. So the child says no.
The mother patiently picks up the child, puts her in a chair and puts hands gently on her shoulders. Pressing down lightly, she says with the tone that means business, “It’s time to sit down.”
Spirited and brave, the child pouts, thinks for a moment, then replies, “I’m sitting down on the outside. But on the inside I’m standing up.”
This story speaks to me over and over again of my relationship with God. As a Christian for over thirty years, I have had my seasons of complete disobedience. But more frequently in the last ten or fifteen years, I’ve done a pretty good job of learning to ‘submit.’ I loved lists like those found in Romans 12:19-21, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Galatians 5:16-26 because they gave me check boxes that made me feel really good about the behavior modification program I thought was my sanctification.
I am a results-based person. Give me a task and let me check it off. My natural inclination was to approach my faith the same way, working on the outward behaviors instead of the inward motivations; sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside.
Make no mistake. I love Jesus and have always been very aware of my need for a Savior. But my story is a long and bumpy one, and I have baggage that steers me back to self. In the end my problem is sufficiency in myself instead of my Savior: to have the answers, to have the plan, to have the understanding, to have the capability…the list is long for me and my self-stuff. When God took hold of my heart on this issue, He showed me the difference between submission and surrender. He showed me that I can submit but disagree.
Let me say that again: I can submit but disagree.
I can learn to say the right things and do the right things but really feel that my way would have been better. I could give many examples from my life when that was my mindset. I may have said the right things, done the right things and as hard as this might be to understand, I even believed the right things. But I would have preferred they had gone my way. My plan.
“Ok, God. I know you are God and you know best and all that, but I really think you should have done this the way I said.”
Can you imagine? I know. Who the heck do I think I am anyway??
Or maybe you can imagine. Maybe you understand what I am saying in some small way. Have you lost a loved one? Lost an opportunity that you thought was going to be great? Are you in that place where you are still waiting for Him to make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) and it’s still looking like a hot mess???
For me this was a really difficult lesson to apprehend. I was forced to look inside and understand not only that I was still clinging to my own will, but also why. Enter all that baggage I mentioned.
God has been patient and tender with me, bringing people around me who truly love me unconditionally, to speak into my heart problem without making me feel like a huge jerk. He is good like that. So good.
Since I am still a work in progress, God reminds me frequently of the verse He first used to show me this heart problem of mine:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-8)
In my case, I felt I was in appropriate submission to Him. Moving forward to the ministry goals, getting stuff done, doing my relationship with Him daily, keeping His worldview in my marriage and my home. I felt pretty good about that. But then came this word “surrender,” which is an entirely different level. I was sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside. I was saying, “God you can have my outward life, my behavior, my speech, my worldview, my time, energy and resources for this ministry; dominion over my marriage and my family. Yes, God you can have all that. But you can’t have this: my inmost being. The things that I think make me who I am, the things that I THINK sustain me. My confidence, my strength, my will. No, you can’t have that, because who would I be without that? I’m sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I’m standing up.”
And Jesus said, “Deeper, deeper, deeper child. Give. Me. All.”
In the quietness of your heart, ask the Lord, “Where have I failed to surrender to you Jesus? Where am I going through the motions but holding on to my hard-hearted self?” Take comfort my friend, because once you open that door to Him He will lead you into a spacious place. He will rescue you because He delights in you. (Psalm 18:19)
I had a choice. I could respond to God’s gentle nudge, or I could wait for Him to fully knock me flat. You have that choice today too. He loves us too much to let it go. He will stay after you. Ask God to show you those things, and make a decision to surrender. I’ll be praying for you. Maybe you can pray for me too.
Holly is a Bible teacher at Study With Friends Ministries. The story in this blog comes up in our Old Testament Themes study where you can hear the women talk more about it. You can listen to any of our Bible studies by tuning in to your favorite radio station, listening to our podcast on iTunes, or listening through TuneIn or Stitcher online radio.