Erosion is a process in the natural world in which the earth’s materials are worn off and transported away by natural forces such as wind or water. The physical properties of rocks and land are remodeled without changing their basic chemical composition. The rock becomes smooth and rounded, formed into new shapes. Wind and water work together to move particles of sand and stone, dirt and organic matter from one area to another, changing the landscape of both places. In nature, erosion creates visual wonders such as the rock formations in Arizona, sea stacks in Portugal and the spectacular cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
These visual wonders are the work of gradual everyday processes over time. Only rarely are such formations the result of large events such as earthquakes or erupting volcanos. When we consider the idea of growing in submission to God, we sometimes think only in terms of large, life changing events. Perhaps when we were first confronted with our deep need for God, or when we have a serious health issue, we see clearly that our only option is surrender. Those “Jesus take the wheel moments” force the realization that we are not in control and so we submit. These types of experiences are infrequent and not the usual realm where surrender is formed.
The reality is that surrender to God must be in the obscure quotidian moments throughout our lives. Just like the natural wonders formed through the gentle daily rhythms of nature, so we are formed by daily moments of yielding to the ways of the One we follow. This surrender can look like:
· Choosing kindness to our husband when he has left his clothes on the floor… again.
· Honoring our parent by faithfully visiting even when dementia has stolen them away from us.
· Being the first to offer an olive branch in a disagreement with a friend.
· Working diligently as unto the Lord, even though we dislike our boss.
· Sacrificing our desire for leisure to instead, read one more book to our child, or care for a hurting friend.
· Forgiving someone who has hurt or abandoned us, letting resentment go.
Submission to God often looks like yielding to the desires of others. It looks like opening my hands to release my rights to another in love. It is allowing my carefully crafted schedule to be reworked as needed allowing myself to be molded, remaining pliable, soft, and yielding. It is not being a doormat, or neglecting care of self, but it is being obedient to God who calls us to a life of giving oneself away in love.
The Holy Spirit is characterized in the Bible as both water and wind, the very elements that nature uses to wear down rocks, carve out new formations, and create new pathways for water to flow. Just as manmade structures such as dams and levees can be built to stop the effects of erosion, likewise we can build barriers to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Or we can, like those who have gone before, choose surrender. We can learn from Abraham, Esther, Mary and numerous others recorded in Scripture what a life of yielding to our Father in heaven can look like.
In the Passion of Jesus we see a powerful example of surrender in the way he set his feet toward Jerusalem, knowing all that it would mean, in submission to his Father. Secure in this relationship, Jesus was free to literally give His life away. His prayer in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” expresses the very real struggle of accepting the plan of God, while becoming a pattern for the way we can approach those moments when God calls us to surrender to His blueprint for our lives.
Will we allow the Spirit of God full access to our rough edges so that He can gently chisel, polish and buff us into the beautiful creation He has designed us to be? Will we hand over the “stuff” in our hearts that is blocking His movement in our lives, instead allowing Him to shift and move and renovate so He can make us anew?
Some things that may be hindering the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives:
· Pride – this tells us that we are in control of our lives, we know what is best for us
· Fear – perhaps we do not really trust that God is good, so we guard our hearts, fearful of what He might have in mind for us.
· Unwillingness to forgive –we are holding on to hurt and past grievances, unsure if God sees
· Impatience - we feel that God is being too slow in acting, so we take matters into our own hands.
Both humility - defined as recognizing the full extent of our neediness and dependence on God - and faith are required in order to surrender. We will only be able to give up control to One who we believe will be faithful and good. Think of a child standing on the edge of a swimming pool being encouraged by his father, whose arms are reaching out, to jump into the water. Because the child loves and trusts his father, he is able to leap and fall, trusting his dad to catch him. Many moments in our day are similar to this; I have to choose whether I will continue with my own way our risk falling into the arms of my Heavenly Father and His ways. My failure to yield to God often reveals the ways I doubt His goodness and His plans for me. When I think that I’ve got in all under control, then surrender is difficult. It’s all of the minute-by-minute ways that I seek to build my own kingdom rather than choosing to live under the kingship of Jesus, that reveal if I am living a life of surrender.
Just like water has the power to carve out rock, our day-to-day life of yielding to Jesus has the ability to reform us. Those hard edges of ours are gradually being worn smooth, the walls are slowly being dismantled. He is chiseling away those sharp edges that trip us up and washing away the sediment that blocks our way forward. Slowly, each day we are being polished and buffed to reflect His character and beauty. As we surrender all to our Maker, He is remaking us into beautiful monuments to His grace.