Surrender. What a “losing” kind of word. White flags. Giving up. Captive in enemy territory.

Someone told me this week that I wasn’t very good at surrendering. I scoffed. “You’ve obviously never seen me play Monopoly…or try to win an argument with my wife…or endeavor to lose 20 pounds. I am nothing if not a surrender-er.” And so I’ve been stewing over this all week. You know, the deep kind of meditating that makes you so mad sometimes you have to push it back for a little while. You know, the kind of contemplation that keeps you up when normal people are sleeping. You know, the kind of inner-evaluation that makes you write something down for the entire world to read. Is surrendering quitting? Is it losing? Is it giving up? Quitting? Who wants to be a quitter? I mean, don’t we tell our kids something like winners never quit and quitters never win? Did your parents ever make you stay in piano lessons or on the soccer team because “you’re not going to be a quitter”? I’m not quite sure if quitting is the right word. Quitting is just walking away. I’m done. That’s all she wrote. The fat lady has sung. I don’t think surrender means quitting. Losing, then? Wait a minute, no! I’ve walked away from plenty of Monopoly games where I wasn’t losing. (I was just bored because that game takes so dang long!) And I’ve lost plenty of battles where surrender would definitely NOT happen. I will never forget the day my grandmother made me eat sauerkraut (she was German—she wanted me to be culturally relevant!). I lost that battle, even though I didn’t surrender. I didn’t give up. But somehow my grandmother got that nasty stuff into my mouth despite my vehement opposition. (She regretted that about 5 seconds later when I threw up all over her kitchen table!) I didn’t surrender, but I did lose. So I don’t think surrender is losing. Giving up? Ahhh, there it is. Surrender is giving over control—giving up—giving in—submitting. And we view this as a bad thing. We surrender to the enemy. We surrender in battle. We surrender our driver’s licenses when we’re pulled over by the police. We learn early on that surrendering is bad—and though losing and quitting don’t quite get it right, they are definitely part of our cultural definition of surrendering.

No wonder we can be so resistant to surrendering to Jesus. I know he’s not my enemy—that he is always for me, not against me. But culturally, surrendering feels like I’m totally giving up my control…mainly it feels that way because…I am—I have to. Any control I have over my own life, my own future is really just an illusion. The reality is I have no control. I have no control over things yet unseen. I have no control to change my past. I have no control over Him.

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My only recourse is to surrender—to willingly give in and trust that, unlike waving a white flag in the face of the enemy, this surrender can only bring my success, my peace, my salvation.

Do you remember Operation Desert Storm? Early on in the fight, the Iraqi army just surrendered. They recognized that they were outmanned, outpowered, and outnumbered. They just gave up. Surrendered.

I’m realizing that in some of the most important areas of my life I’ve been unwilling to admit that. I’ve been a weak, lacking militia fighting against a super power…with no hope of victory.

I don’t have to be in control to win the game. I don’t have to be right to win the argument. I don’t have to be powerful to win the war. I just have to submit to his authority—surrendering my illusion of control and giving in to the overpowering, all-encompassing heart of Jesus.

And that’s certainly not giving up anything or losing anything. It’s gaining everything…through simple surrender.


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