I normally have trouble reading and sticking to any kind of devotional. The last time we were in Ethiopia, in 2006, I had quite a few serious God experiences and I decided then to read my Bible every day – and that changed my whole life. But reading a devotional every day is, for some reason, really difficult for me. I know it’s partly because I lack discipline, but still. However, I recently started reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and it’s really amazing. I think I like it because he’s not cuddly or feel-good, and he doesn’t sugarcoat things; quite the opposite. It’s not like, “Oh, don’t feel bad about yourself, because the clouds have been made of cotton candy ever since Jesus rose again.” It’s real.
Anyway. Yesterday’s bit was about individuality, and how it can be a major hindrance to healthy spiritual life. He wasn’t saying we should all become clones, but he talked about a certain strain of independent spirit that’s good when surrendered to God but bad when we let it go against God. Which it does quite often.
The thing that hit me was this thing he said about surrender: “The choice is either to say, ‘I will not surrender,’ or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge…God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot.”
I am not naturally a very adventurous person, but I want to be, so maybe I am and I’m just growing into it or whatever. Either way, I have that draw to adventure, to excitement, to unexpected things, to independence, to breaking barriers and the occasional rule. In The Lord of the Rings, I kind of despise Arwen (the elf Aragorn is in love with), but I love Eowyn (Rohan, sword-wielding, witch-king-killing chick). One of the worst things someone can say or suggest to me is surrender of any kind. I do not like surrender. I’m all for fight instead of flight. So when I read that bit, I immediately went on a little rant in my head. Which, of course, perfectly illustrates the point he was making.
Of all the things in spiritual life, the thing I have the most trouble with is this concept of surrendering to God. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or weak or like I need someone or something. I know from experience and from the Bible that not surrendering to God is pretty much the most moronic thing you can do, but still, I have trouble with it.
But how prideful and selfish is that? I forget sometimes that without God, I wouldn’t be alive. If He hadn’t sent Jesus to earth, I would be doubly not alive. If not for His love, I am nothing.
Who made adventure? Who created the sea, the mountains, the sky, the diverse world, and everything else we use to satisfy our adrenaline-addicted sides? Who made billions of human beings, each one different, unique, original, and unlike anyone else? Who made individuality? Who made it possible for us to have life and to even have the luxury of being independent and unique?
The point is not that these things are bad, because they aren’t. The point is that, like everything else, they are good-better-best when we subject them to God’s will. An independent, strong, adventurous heart is a grand thing to have – now imagine that fueled by God’s spirit. Giving up your right to yourself sounds painful, and it is; but it’s so, so very worth it.