I’ve been mulling for the past week something that Elisabeth Elliot says in Passion and Purity, about how we need to lay down everything that is ours in surrender to God. Everything. A lot of people talk about laying things down and surrendering them, but most of the time we think of it as laying down the bad things. That the surrendering is all about giving up what’s wrong or sinful or dangerous or prideful or a mix of all of the above. But that isn’t right. That’s not what’s asked of us.
We need to surrender all. All the hopes, all the fears, all the worries, all the joys, all the talents and strengths and delights right alongside the weaknesses and distractions and hang-ups. All of it. The whole thing. Lifted off and set down and walked away from. All the ambitions, all the biases, all the rules and regulations, all the wandering paths, words said and deeds done, every act we hope to do, every plan we’ve ever made, regardless of their rightness or wrongness, holiness or baseness, size or lack thereof. All our motivations and dreams and nightmares. All of it, surrendered.
And we have also the assumption that as soon as we’ve surrendered it all, that God will merely rearrange the load and send us on our way. Or that he’ll replace the load and send us on our way. Whichever way we look at it, we assume that it’s just a moment’s inspection before we shoulder our burden and keep on truckin’.
But that’s not quite it, I don’t think. For when we surrender everything we are and have, while we are surrendered totally, there is a moment of complete and utter freedom. ‘Cause when I surrender everything, all my hopes and all my fears, all my dreams and talents and weaknesses and strengths, all my worries and concerns and goals and pitfalls, my past, my future, everything I desire and everything I know, for a moment, just for a small moment, a few minutes or hours or days, I am finally, merely me.
Back during college, my absolute favorite time of the year was choir tour. It happened in the spring, near the end of the long academic year (and in some cases, after it), and it took anywhere from ten days to two and a half weeks. We’d load up on a bus, with a bag of luggage each and all our equipment (risers, sound equipment, uniforms), and then we’d take off across country to visit churches and schools where we would sing. What I loved wasn’t just the singing, or the camaraderie, but the freedom. Because while some might resent the tyrrany of our strict schedules (which once had us getting up at 4am so we could get to the next venue in time) and the hasty prep before each concert, and the fact that our accomadations were anywhere from hotel rooms to somebody’s dust-clogged hideabed, I had nothing to decide and nothing to be responsible for except a couple choir-related duties and making sure that I was wherever I needed to be whenever I needed to be. No job. No hassle. No debate. No uncertainty. I had no control over my life, but I had nothing to worry about either.
Not that I could have stayed like that, and not that anyone should. We always came home before I got bored and thought seriously about striking out on my own. But then, I knew it wouldn’t last, that it couldn’t last, so I could enjoy it when it happened. For those weeks, everything I did and everything I hoped to be was put on hold. All my needs were taken care of. For those two weeks, I surrendered all my baggage. The only thing I had to carry was a suitcase. I was free.
And we get so tied up in all our baggage. We get so tied up in what we can do, where we have been, and where we want to go. We start to think it’s our identity. Even when asked, we describe ourselves that way: what we’re doing for a living now, and what we plan to do in the future. But that is not us.
So let me lay down my plans for a moment, remembering that what’s important isn’t the plans themselves. And let me unload my desires and dreams and be free of them for awhile – I’ve spent long enough striving after them, and there’ll be plenty of time later to go back to them. Let me put away my worries – perfectly legit worries about perfectly legit things, which help me do things well, but just for a moment let’s not let them have any bearing on anything. Let me take a vacation, however brief, from everything I want and fear, and instead be everything I am.
We spend so much time conducting “business” with each other, reminding each other of duties or working out plans or exchanging information. Let us surrender it all for awhile, and just be, and laugh, and sigh, and enjoy each other. My burden will still be there when I’m done. Let it sit for a bit. Let me stretch and relax and loosen sore muscles. Let me see the world a little clearer, see it without letting it be shaded by all my angles. Let me talk to God without the asking, just him and me. And y’know… maybe when I go to pick it all up again, I’ll see the parts that I don’t really need, and the parts that I do, and a better way to carry them. All of which I’d never see if I hadn’t put them all down. But for now, right now, let me just be free.
We bear so much day to day. Some of which is as it should be. But if we are meant to surrender it all, then that means that sometimes we have to actually, y’know, put it down.