Which does the Lord want? Does he want my commitment or does he want my surrender? What exactly do these two words mean? I tell myself that I need to be more committed to spending time with the Lord. I need to be committed to loving people and serving others. But it is hard. I have weeks where I fail more than I succeed. And then I have weeks where I don’t do so bad. But it’s in the empty weeks where I stumble and fall and see just how clearly wretched I can be and how I just don’t want to do ‘this’ anymore because it is so so hard. So I looked up these couple of words and I found something I hadn’t known before.
- to yield something to the possession of power to another
- to give oneself up in to the power of another
- to give up, abandon, or relinquish
- to yield in favor of another
- to pledge
- to bind or obligate
- to give in trust or charge
- to entrust for safekeeping
- to do, perform
- to engage oneself
The differences are subtle and it would be easy to exchange one for the other and mean the same thing, but I see something different between the two that is vital. It appears that with commitment I still retain authority over whether or not I commit. Commitment involves me doing something–pledging, obligating, or giving someone charge of something. Surrender involves yielding. Yielding is getting out of the way and giving authority of oneself up to the Lord.
I have been committed without surrender. Commitment without surrender has led to my lack of consistency in my walk with Christ. When I commit without surrender I am telling myself that I get to choose when and where I am committed to Christ. Maybe it’s just on Sunday mornings or when I am out and about, but the commitment can wane when I am with my family and I allow myself to act and say things that I would never dream of acting or saying to anyone else.
But surrender is where consistent Christ-living occurs. Surrender must be active and present for commitment to become woven into our daily moments no matter what we face. Maybe I need to be less of a committed Christian and more of a surrendered Christian. Maybe our churches need to preach more about surrendering instead of committing. Maybe we have it backwards.
Surrender first. Yield oneself to the power and grace of the Lord. Surrender all we are and hope to become. Surrender our pain and our joys. Surrender our wills to the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Surrender to the One who holds us in his palm and whispers love to us in the darkest of days and deepest of nights.
Commitment second. Once surrender occurs, commitment is a natural progression. Surrendering leads to a people working through the power of the Holy Spirit and commitment alone leads to a people working through themselves which leads to inconsistency and legalism. Surrender is a yielding to the Lord’s authority and then giving him our pledge to live as he would have us to live. Without surrender commitment is empty and becomes a choice.
I know that each day I need to get up and surrender again. And sometimes I need to surrender every moment to the One who is my hope. I wish I could say this is an easy thing, but my heart deceives and who can know it? It is a fight to remain in that surrendered place and so I often I slip out of it without even realizing it.
I can only describe my experience with slipping out of that surrendered place and it usually starts with a dissatisfaction with the way things are. I begin looking around at all the pain and hurts in those around me and myself. I begin to focus on the unanswered prayers or the news that smacks me around and down. I begin being too aware of my present and not aware enough of his presence. These are clues that I have slipped out of surrender. Another clue is when commitment wanes and becomes too hard.
It’s both surrender and commitment. Working together. Complementing each other. Bringing purpose to our days. I need to choose both. Surrender and commitment, but commitment becomes a whole lot easier if I surrender first. Surrender is a loss of freedom that gives me freedom to commit and live for the Lord. It’s both and.