I can remember back to high school, when I stood with arms stretched wide giving my life to Jesus, singing “I surrender all” with reckless abandon and child-like trust. My deep surrender at that time was my sour attitude towards anything that didn’t go my way, whether God wanted me to be on the swim team or in the show choir (as a side note, I wasn’t great at either), that boy that I had a crush on that didn’t seem to know my name, my stubbornness towards my parents and countless other things that were big deals at the time, but now seem so small. But, oh I sang that song with conviction and I surrendered all I knew to surrender at the time.
Can I tell you the sweet thing about the Lord? He takes our child like surrender, when our hearts cry is Him and we don’t know anything of what counting the cost really looks like and He begins to show us. Our child-like faith points to the deep longings of our hearts before they are marred with the questions that come out of the difficulties of this life. He is faithful. He hears our cries. He knows our hearts even when we can’t even see our true heart’s desire through the weight of this world.
Fast forward to college, now it was my future, a husband, things that held more weight and there I sat at a conference for other college students my junior year of college, listening to a woman speak of what surrender looks like. She told a story that has been imbedded in my mind of when she lived in Eastern Europe and the Lord prompted her to go around her home and surrender all her belongings to Him. After some hesitation at the strangeness of the request… “Was that really Him prompting her?” She began to surrender every item in her home to Him. Not a difficult task at first, until she stood in front of a vase that held great value and significance to her. Could she trust the Lord with this vase? Would he take it? Through tear stained eyes she gave it to the Lord and around the house she went. Months later there was a fire in her home. And as she went through the rubble, she came across the vase. That vase, that she wondered if the Lord could be trusted with, sat in a pile of rubble marred by the fire in such a way that once cleaned it was even more beautiful then before. That story was etched in my mind as I fought with the Lord in my seat that night, would I walk open handed with my life before Him? I wanted to do what I wanted to do. “Don’t send me somewhere I don’t want to go, don’t make me be single… “ those were the battle questions stirring in my heart. It was as if the Lord took me back to those child like moments of junior high “Lindsey, do you remember surrendering your life to me? This is what that means…to continue to give me the things you hold onto, to trust me with your deepest dreams believing that if some are not met, I will give you new ones that will be even greater” I sat there, tears streaming down my face, giving the Lord my future (while still politely reminding Him of where I did not want to go… in case He forgot). As I walked open handed that year, God began to shape my heart to go to a place I did not want to go… move overseas. And my time overseas became a season in my life where unspeakable joy and passion erupted in my heart. As some say “I really did find myself in Europe”. As dreams of where I had wanted to go seemed to break… new ones, better ones erupted from laying them down and letting the Lord pick up the pieces and make something even more beautiful.
Elisabeth Elliot writes in her book, The Path of Loneliness, in response to becoming a widow: “That inexorable Love (of Christ) had allowed me to become a widow. But ‘allowed me to become’ is not adequate. It even seems feeble to me now, for the Lord of Hosts is absolutely sovereign. He holds power over the universe; He holds authority over my life – not because He usurps the rights with which He endowed me in creation, but because I had specifically asked Him to be lord of my life. I had prayed as earnestly as a child and a teenager and a woman can pray, Thy will be done. The coming of this transcendent authority into one’s life is bound to be an active thing, an immense disruption at times. This was one of those times.”
“An immense disruption”. Oh that phrase resonates with me as I think of the turn our story with Sophie took when we found out she would not live. I faced what perhaps many fear in surrendering to the Lord, the fear of Him taking what you treasure so deeply. We surrendered Sophie’s little life to Jesus long before we ever knew of her condition, giving her to the one who she belonged to in the first place and was just being entrusted to us for a season. We had no idea that season would be so short. And that has ravished my heart as I wrestle with surrender and hesitantly continue to surrender the things, people and dreams I hold so tightly. Yet I know, that I know, that I know that living surrendered is the only true way to find your life.
“For whoever would save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:25
In giving my life to Jesus and everything I hold dear I am saying “I trust you, I trust your plan though I don’t understand it, and I trust that true life is found in living surrendered to you, Lord.” Surrendering Sophie to the Lord, our dreams for her and with her enabled us to more fully embrace the gift of her life given to us by God for His appointed season, and trust Him in the questions and the hardness of it all. And over and over there is evidence in my life that when I have walked surrendered I have found life in Christ more full, more meaningful, more rich and I have to be honest I am discovering new, sweeter treasures in this season of loss than I could have ever imagined. He is taking a broken story and making something so beautiful, that even I am shocked at some of the beauty that is coming out of this journey with Sophie. But that is what He does, He makes beautiful the broken, He gives new dreams, and He restores what is lost. He takes this lump of clay and He molds it into something beautiful, allowing the pain of this life to not mar our beauty but enhance it.
“With what misgivings we turn over our lives to God, imagining somehow that we are about to lose everything that matters, our hesitancy is like that of a tiny shell on the seashore, afraid to give up the teaspoonful of water it holds let there not be enough in the ocean to fill it again. Lose your life, said Jesus, and you will find it. Give up, and I will give you all. Can the shell imagine the depth and plenitude of the ocean? Can you and I fathom the riches, the fullness, of God’s love?” – Elisabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness