Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surrender My Demand For Life on My Terms?

I was a little glad when I got back to civilization/internet access, and saw that I had missed Amber's assignment of writing about surrender.  After 45 years of relationship with the God of the universe I had  many experiences which I had characterized as surrender, but the last five years held so much skepticism and unbelief on my part that I doubted my ability to remember and separate just one example from my tangled ball of experience.  "Whew!  I can excuse myself from that assignment", I thought.

But promises I'd made to myself and years of placing my heart's desires before God joined to become a quietly insistent voice that I discipline myself to add another, older perspective to the fresh accounts  already told in and attached to Amber's blog.  I went to my bookshelves to pull Catherine Marshall'sbooks and find where she had written about relinquishment in a way that had imprinted inself into both my daily experience and long term memory.

You young women have likely heard of Catherine Marshall only, if at all, as the author of Christy, a winsome story of a young teacher's first years living and teaching in a southern Appalachian mountain community which was made into a movie decades ago.  Those of you who are enjoying "Redeeming Love" will probably enjoy Christy.  Catherine Marshall has written numerous easy to read non-fiction books, which I heartily recommend to you, detailing her "own search for a meaningful life, a practical faith, and a closer relationship with God."  I have on my shelves: To Live AgainBeyond OurselvesSomething MoreMeeting God at Every TurnThe Helper, and Mr. Jones Meet the Master (this last book was Catherine's first, a written compilation of some of her first husband's sermons, published after his death.)

In Beyond Ourselves, Catherine writes about the Prayer of Relinquishment:

"I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943.  The illness that I have mentioned before... had kept me in bed for many months.  A bevy of specialists seemed unable to help.  Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in -- nothing.

One afternoon a pamphlet was put in my hand.  It was the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years.  Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do His work.  Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, 'All right.  I give up.  If you want me to be an invalid for the rest of my days, that's Your business.  Anyway, I've discovered that I want You even more than I want health.  You decide.'  The pamphlet said that within two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.

This made no sense to me.  It seemed too pat.  Yet I could not forget the story.....I came to the same point of abject acceptance.  'I'm tired of asking' was the burden of my prayer.  'I'm beaten, finished.  God You decide what you want for me the rest of my life...'  Tears flowed.  I had no faith as I understood faith.  I expected nothing.  The gift of my sick self was made with no trace of graciousness.

The result was as if windows had opened in heaven; as if some dynamo of heavenly power had begun flowing, flowing into me.  From that moment my recovery began.

Through this incident and others...God was trying to teach me something important about prayer.... I got only part of the message.  I saw that the demanding spirit - 'God, I must have thus and so; God this is what I want you to do for me' - is not real prayer and hence receives no answer.  I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will and ...unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer."

Catherine Marshall relates two more accounts of a prayer of relinquishment from the lives of others, then writes:

"Larry's story and Una's have several points in common.  In each case, the mother wanted the same thing desperately -- life and health for her child.  Each mother commanded God to answer her prayer.  While the demanding spirit had the upper hand, God seemed remote, uapproachable

Then, through a combination of the obvious futility of the demanding prayer plus weariness of body and spirit, the mother surrendered to the possibility of what she feared most.  At that instant there came a turning point.  Suddenly and inexplicably fear left and the feeling of lightness ad joy that had nothing to do with outer circumstances.  This marked the turning point.  From that moment the prayer began to be answered.  

...We know that fear blocks prayer.  Fear is a barrier erected between us and God, so that His power cannot get through to us.  So -- how does one get rid of fear?

This is not easy when the life of someone dear hangs in the balance, or when what we want most in all the world seems to be slipping away.  At such times, every emotion, every passion, is tied up in the dread that what we fear most is about to come upon us.  Obviously only strong measures can deal with such a powerful fear.  My experience has been that trying to overcome it by turning one's thoughts to the positive or by repeating affirmations is not potent enough.

...Jesus is saying: 'Admit the possibility of what you fear most.  And lo, as you stop fleeing, as you force yourself to walk up to the fear, as you look it full in the face, never forgetting that God and His power are still the supreme reality, the fear evaporates.'  Drastic? Yes.  But effective.

One point about the Prayer of Relinquishment puzzled me for many years.  There seemed to be a contradiction between the Prayer of Faith and that of relinquishment.  If relinquishment is real, the one praying must be willing to receive or not receive his heart's desire.  But that state of mind scarcely seems to exhibit the faith that knows that one's request will be granted...

Now I believe I have the explanation...Once I thought that faith was believing this or that specific thing in my mind with never a doubt.  Now I know that faith is nothing more or less than actively trusting God...."

Actively trusting God - and being willing to have my understanding of who He is corrected in the process -  is still a curriculum that challenges me greatly even after 45 years.  I have, at various times, surrendered my children, my husband, my life, my marriage, my possessions, my lifestyle, my time and our future to the GOD whom I had found to be GOODNESS and LOVE through and through.  I have practiced on a regular basis the voluntary surrender of my rights modeled by Jesus and described in Philippians 2.  But I have also strongly resisted surrendering MY DEMAND FOR LIFE ON MY TERMS many  times - and the older I am the more I recognize the undercover resistance movement in my actions and choices of the past.  

1 comment:

Amber said...

1. As always thanks for sharing
2. No, I have not heard of her
3. I need to get some of her books from you
4. Wow, what perspective!!!
5. Of all the people I know personally you have taught me more about surrender than anyone.