I apologise that this is longer than usual, but somehow I just couldn’t make it any shorter. I pray that it may bless you and provoke you to reflect.
What does it mean to surrender?
Do you remember those key times in your life when you left school and started college or your first job or when you went off to Uni? Do you remember how it felt, this sense of a new era beginning, a sense of leaving something behind, but excited for what the future may hold? Sometimes the new beginning lived up to expectations, at times it exceeded and at others it may have been a crushing disappointment and it felt like the world came crashing down. Whatever the outcome, we can all relate to those pivotal moments, when we knew we were entering new territory. And here we are again, moving in to a new phase of life, or are we still adjusting to a new phase of life or are we still struggle to let go of the old phase of life?
I have been reading a book recently called “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season” it seemed like an apt title! I read this quote which I think resonates with where we find ourselves: “Surrender means accepting the past for what it was, embracing the present reality, yielding to the mystery of the future and the mystery of God in that future.” For me this describes very well the place I and actually many of us may find ourselves at present. For unlike the key life changes I mentioned at the beginning, we have had a totally new phase of life thrust upon us, with no choice about the changes that this has brought about and will continue to bring about.
So how are you getting on in surrendering to the will of God in this new phase of life? I think many of us would answer that it depends. It depends on the day, it depends on what I am called to do, it depends on the demands of family, it depends if the technology works, it just depends. Well let’s examine this quote in a little more detail.
Firstly ‘surrender means accepting the past for what it was’. For many of us we look back to our church, as it was, with great fondness and a degree of security. Security in that I knew what was expected of me, I knew who I was in that place, I knew to what I had been called. Being part of a gathered group of people felt good and right. I do recognise that there will be some reading this who have let go of what was very easily and in fact very gladly. But many, especially in our congregations, are struggling to let go of what was and to be able to surrender to God in that letting go. Letting go is about celebrating that which was good, as well as releasing that which was less good. However whatever ‘it’ was, God wants us to surrender to Him in order to be present in the here and now.
So how are you getting on at being present in the here and now and ‘embracing the present reality’? I am really bad at living in the ‘now’, I am always either looking over my shoulder at what was, or straining towards what is to come. I can really relate to Paul when he writes in Philippians of pressing on towards the goal! However at times God says embrace the present reality, in the light of surrendering what was and at the same time yielding to the future which He holds in His hands, be present, here. I’ve realised that one of my struggles in the last 12 weeks has been the fact that I have been unable to plan. I haven’t been able to plan to see family and friends, plans for EBA things have had to either change or be on hold and so on and so on. I hadn’t realised how much of a planner I was. But God says embrace the now and yield the future for He already has plans. As lockdown begins to ease, it turns out that embracing the present is actually about living in a constant state of change. When lockdown arrived, there was a clear line of what we could do, how and when. As it eases the goalposts move each week and as church leaders, each week there will be questions about what can we do and when, with many different agendas behind those questions. Living in constant change is exhausting and like an ongoing never ending grief cycle. So how is this present reality for you? Is God firmly with you as you embrace the present, is He in your rocking boat, is He under your shifting sand?
The final part of this quote asks us to ‘yield to the mystery of the future and the mystery of God in that future’. If you are like me and you want to plan for what is next, yielding to the mystery of the future is tough even when it belongs to a known God, because he hasn’t yet told you what the plan is! The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. I don’t wish to use this verse as a platitude, but rather for it to underpin all that this quote is driving at. We sing our songs about ‘I surrender all…all to Jesus I surrender’, but when surrender looks like some of what we have gone through and are currently going through and will continue to go through then ‘I surrender all’ is much harder than the song and the lilting tune.
When we surrender what was, choose to live in our present reality and yield to an unknown future, it is there that we find the rock of Jesus who remains the same throughout all of the shifting sands and rocky seas. However to be able to come to that place of release and realisation sometimes we need quotes like these to remind us of the hard work that is involved in genuine surrender to our mysterious gracious God.
“Surrender means accepting the past for what it was, embracing the present reality, yielding to the mystery of the future and the mystery of God in that future.” (How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season by Susan Beaumont)
As we continue to stand together as the Baptist family against racism, we would like to draw your attention to the call to prayer from the Baptist World Alliance on Thursday:
‘STANDING TOGETHER IN PRAYER’ Baptist World Alliance call to prayer
May we be known as people of prayer now and always. Make plans to join with Baptists worldwide for a unified hour of prayer at 5pm (UK) on Thursday, June 18. Visit bit.ly/30wQ7kk to sign up.
Prayer for the Regional Team
Beth, Graeme and Nick are all tuning in to various services this Sunday, but not preaching.
We continue to pray for you as we journey through lockdown together.
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