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Spiritual Surrender? No Damn Way!

The idea of surrender has always offended me. I have a better metaphor. Check it out in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.

The metaphor of surrender is common in Christianity as well as in newer ideas of spirituality. That is, “surrender your will to God’s will”, or “join your immolation to the immolation of the crucified Christ”. This is not a very appealing metaphor, especially for us men.

“Surrender” has a military implication. I think many men, like me, would rather say, “No damn way I’m gonna surrender. You can peel my gun out of my cold dead hands after I’ve fired every lasts damn round of ammunition I have at YOU!” The idea of surrender engenders defiance. I don’t think this is what God has in mind. Let me propose a different metaphor about the will of God.

I’m a musician and a band director. The greatest, most fun, thing in the world is to play in a band. Any such chance is an opportunity for joy! When I show up to a band rehearsal and the conductor hands me the folder of music, my response is, “Yes! Let’s play.” I hope to get the first clarinet part, but even if the conductor hands me the second or third clarinet part, it’s still a joy. I don’t complain and say, “I want the first clarinet part or I’m not playing. I want to play the melody. In fact, I want to play a solo.” I don’t say, “I like the trumpet parts. I want to play the first trumpet parts on the clarinet.” If I show up with my clarinet, I play the clarinet part. I do what the conductor asks without argument or complaint. I eagerly let the conductor be the boss, knowing that whatever he does, good or bad, I’ll learn something and experience joy.

In the end, the part I play doesn’t matter all that much anyway because it’s the sound of the whole band that’s important. It’s the whole musical experience I want to be a part of. As a band, it’s what we create together that really makes the experience worthwhile. I could sit at home by myself and play the melody all day long. But that’s a completely different experience. That’s lonely. That’s one-dimensional. Not only do I miss the harmony and countermelodies and different timbres of each instrument, but I miss the joy of the people, the cooperation, really the “communion” with the other musicians. There’s a dynamic that operates in a musical group where each person joins their skills, their creative efforts, their talent, their personality, even their mood at the moment into a whole that is more than just musical. It’s a social experience, an intellectual experience, a multi-sensory experience, and even a spiritual experience. It is so much more incredibly multi-dimensional than just sitting at home and playing the melody all by myself. That’s what makes the experience of playing in a band so fantastic.

Every musician understands this. No one goes into a rehearsal or a concert with the attitude that they are giving up anything, surrendering anything. Of course, in a sense we are. Each musician gives up their free will, their freedom to play whatever they want, whenever they want, and willingly cooperates with the other musicians and the conductor to create something beautiful together that no one could have done on their own. But no musician sees this as a “surrender”. We might see it as a self-discipline that brings incredible fruits. We might see it as a joining of our skills and creativity within a certain form or structure for a definite purpose. We might see it as an opportunity to express our own creativity in a specific way. But no one sees it as a surrender of the will. We follow the will of the conductor not out of surrender but out of joy, knowing that chaos and frustration would result if we didn’t follow the conductor’s will.

This is the situation with the will of God. God knows what we truly want to experience, even better than we do ourselves. God gives us our part and gives us the opportunity to express our own skills and creativity in the context in which we find ourselves. We are certainly free to argue and complain and rebel and refuse—to play what we want, when we want. But this will never result in a beautiful creation in which we will find joy, fulfillment, and an opportunity to express our creative power. Only by joining our will with God’s will can we achieve that.

We can draw on a famous saying of Jesus to shed even more light on this idea. Both Matthew and Mark record this passage where the apostles are astonished that it is so hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. They ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replies,

“With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (Mk 10:27 and Mt 19:26)

Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on a preposition, but note that Jesus didn’t say, “for God, all things are possible” but rather, “with God, all things are possible.” It is when we join our will with God’s will that all things are possible for us together. For God is powerful but He doesn’t have a physical presence in this material world. We do. We are the only hands and feet in the world that God can use. It’s when we join our physical presence with God’s power that together we can do all things. St. Paul echoes the same sentiment when he says, “I can do all things through Him/Christ who strengthens me.” (Ph 4:13)

This day, and every day, try joining your will with God’s will and I bet you’ll find that, together, all things are possible!

God Bless You!

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