In the kingdom of God, surrender is fought for. The cost must be counted, and the yes must be found valuable enough to strengthen. Are we willing to invest our hearts in the battle even at great personal cost, for the sake of walking worthy of the calling we have received?
When I got to the destination of my second midterm trip, things did not go as I expected. My first midterm I loved, in fact I would consider those months some of the best times of my life so far. Yet, my second mid term did not contain the instant ecstasy and joy I anticipated. Subconsciously I had begun to expect that if God was in it, then surely it would come easy. I expected it to be easy and to feel glorious like the first time. Yet it was not easy. Here is an excerpt from my journal. “It’s only two days in, but I don’t like it yet. In the natural, this place isn’t a good fit for me. I’m tired, disappointed, discouraged and I just plain don’t like it here so far.” To my dismay these feelings dragged into the tript longer and longer.
I loved the location of my first midterm, so there was a strong temptation to compare or settle into disappointment. But a wise man once said comparison is the thief of joy. It may not have been what I expected, but often the biggest moments of growth come from unexpected places. Sometimes we learn more in the difficult than we learn in the easy because it forces us to get over our self-reliance and express our dependence on God. Maybe God was looking to test my yes to Him and my willingness to go anywhere.
I found it easy to look at the difficulties. I am an introvert, I get anxious in crowds and cities, and so being thrust into a global city with constant noise and chaos was overwhelming to say the least at first. I craved silence and the feeling of being totally alone. But maybe God wanted me to practice what I preach, and let my peace be more rooted in Him than in my circumstances. Maybe God brought me there because He was looking for a context to weed out roots of self-reliance and pride that had been hiding in my heart. So it was hard, but maybe God was looking to teach me that hard does not have to equate unfruitful or not worthwhile. Maybe I needed to learn to have a bad day and still be able to with confidence say it is well with my soul. In the chaos of the city I found a God whose peace was bigger than the storm. In the end it was more than worth it all.
There came a time on the trip that I had to make a choice. I could not keep expecting my joy to return only when my circumstance changed, and I could not keep serving God without a heartfelt love for the people I was ministering to. But my heart was stubborn. I wanted to love them and enjoy it, but try as I may, I could not conjure up feelings of love for the place or the people. I could not guilt myself into sincerity. I had to surrender all of my feelings and expectations, and fall into the embrace of my Father. I had to confess my weakness and dependence on Him. At the end of the day, I only had one choice. It all came down to, do I say yes or no. I am either fully in or I don’t play the game. Christ gets everything, or He gets nothing. If I conditioned my yes to whether or not I like it or feel it suits me, then I would be merely be saying yes to my own comfort and not to the glory of God. I could no longer dictate to God what saying yes to Him must look or feel like. I was either going to live fully surrendered to Him or I was going to live for myself, because living surrendered until I think I know better is merely using God. So every day I would wake up needing to choose again to love, and love says yes. Love necessitates a fully surrendered, unconditional yes.
So I committed to wrestle with the yes and fight to live surrendered. Every day I got on my knees and on my face and asked God to change my heart. I told Him that no matter the cost, no matter what I felt, and no matter what it looked like I would choose to say yes to Him. I asked Him to show me what He felt for nation in which I lived. And the strange thing is, once I said yes, I began to love the people of the land. Individual by individual God began to change my heart.
There would be moments when Holy Spirit would bring to my mind images of my Jesus on a cross. And in those moments I would break. In those moments everything I did or did not feel would shatter. I found that more than I loved a feeling, I love my Jesus. It is not okay that the nation I was in did not sing to Him. When I think of my Jesus hanging on a cross everything changes. He is enough. He is always enough. Within this revelation I found my heart began to overflow with emotions deeper than words can express. The worth and beauty of Jesus birthed a joy in a my soul that nothing in the world can compare to. No amount of worldly comfort, satisfaction, self-pity or even grandeur can compare to the glory of His face. When I said yes, when time after time I got on my knees and surrendered, He would come and take my face in His hands and meet my gaze. As I would look into His face, the childishness of the moments before would begin to dawn on me. Oh how hard I felt I fought, how grand I thought my efforts, when in reality I had done nothing in comparison to what He had first done for me. My battle to say yes was nothing more than letting go of filthy slime in exchange for a treasure greater than I could ever have imagined.
It is this revelation that will sustain me and keep me from burnout. It is his revelation that will teach me to rest and be still even in the midst of the chaos of a city far from God. It is this revelation that will keep me steadfast for 5, 10, 20 and even 90 years. It is this revelation that will keep peace and hope rooted in my soul no matter what is against me. It is this revelation that will sustain me regardless of what my eyes may see.
It is good to learn that an unconditional yes is something that is fought for. Both in its establishment and in the maintaining it is worth the cost. But in the end what I most learned, that as much as we fight to surrender we will never fight as hard as He Himself has fought for us. As much as we work to give Him a yes that is wholehearted and unconditional, we work knowing that He first gave us His yes and His all. We give all knowing that what we get is greater than what we give, for we can never outgive God. He is worthy of it all.