"Today is day number ten of being my daughter's only companion in the world. Sure, Ryan is around, but she doesn't want him. The tables will turn one day- sooner than I would like- and she will roll her eyes at me and look at her father like I am some crazy woman who has totally barged in to ruin their collective lives. But right now, she still likes me. And she likes me to the exclusion of anyone else in the world. And right now it is 3 degrees in Nashville. 3 un-human degrees. And the doors of my car are iced shut. And my bum has been cold for days now. No manner of layering takes away the cold. We are mostly stuck inside the house and if I'm being totally honest (since, I have already confessed to my bum being cold) there is a small chance I am losing my mind."
I wrote this first paragraph on Monday, when I was convinced Friday would never get here and I would never again enjoy the sheer delight of dropping my daughter off at school again. It's now a balmy 46 degrees, practically spring time; Annie has gotten back to school; my bum has defrosted and I kind-of miss the nine-hour-Disney-Princess-Play-Castle marathons we had going. And while I complained a lot to my sisters and husband, insisting that I might be losing my ever-loving mind, I actually found myself submitting to the post-Christmas-ice-apocalypse days at home with a little more joy this time around.
Submitting is a word I have come to disdain. Submission. It carries so much baggage within the church. It draws so many lines and places people into categories. It has been mutilated by Christians as everyone concocts their own worth-fighting-and-maligning-for translation of the word and how it should be enacted in marriage, in relation to church elders, in connection with the government, even. Submitting to anything just gives me the willies. And willies are anything that make me feel like spiders are crawling on me or wet hair-that isn't mine- is stuck in between my toes.
And yet I have found myself these past few weeks, drawn by the Holy Spirit, into a constant prayer of submission. I have even gone as far as praying I would be better at submission in the new year! This word, this posture, has quietly, subversively worked it's way back into my vocabulary and into my lifestyle because-
somehow, in the midst of all the religious firestorms and definitions of the word that gives me the willies, I forgot how much submission and surrender have in common.
By definition, submission is: The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.
Be definition, to surrender is: To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion. To give up in favor of another.
Truth is, I'm not a huge fan of either words because I am not good at either word.
Perhaps some people are born with selflessness running through their veins. Submission and surrender to a higher power or a spouse or a friend or a child or a boss or a goal just flows out of them with grace and beauty. I am NOT THAT PERSON. I fight it all. At every turn. Yielding to another. Relinquishing possession. Giving up in favor of another... these are not my strong suits. Submission and surrender both require the laying down of something and I fight myself to release the grip I have on ME.
I love playing Disney Princess Castle with my little girl, but after thirty minutes, I am ready to get back to me. My reading. My agenda. My chores-schedule-projects. My idea of fun. Not hers. And by day 10 of "giving up in favor of another" I realize- I have a long way to go in this whole submission-surrender business.
So, over the holidays, I began praying that I would submit myself to play. I woke up early, not on purpose, and found the first words uttered somewhere in my soul were little prayers that I would submit myself to the being-trapped-at-home-with-my-neurotic-energetic daughter. With joy. Prayers that I would submit my voice so I could truly listen to hers. Prayers that I would submit myself to making my bed. I hate making the bed. But a made-bed changes my husband's entire attitude in the morning. So I found myself asking God to help me submit to bed-making. To help me submit to cooking a healthy meal for my family. To being present even though the world was going on in my absence. To being alive in a place where I would not normally find life-giving sustenance. For weeks I prayed prayers of submission.
But they still had the ring of fight in them. Still had the be-grudging nature. The kind of prayers you utter, and truly, deeply mean, but you only mean them because there is hope that the submission is for a season- not a forever change. I started wondering if perhaps my prayers for submission fell short of heart change? Were they merely prayers for modified behavior sought out of forced compulsion? I didn't want that. That reeks of a dog going to obedience school; I wanted a changed heart, not compulsive obedience. The prayers of submission started to feel empty.
I was sitting on the living room floor this week with rays of morning sun encircling me when I let out a long, deep, satisfied breath. And it occurred to me, this sitting in the sun each morning, this was surrender. Not submission.
The word surrender echoed around in my heart. Surrender has so much in common with submission. But they aren't really the same, are they? I surrender to the warmth of the sun hitting me in my living room. It is a compulsion, I give up all else in the morning to sit and do nothing and feel it's warmth. When the sun is out, I give myself over to it without thinking twice. I never put up a fight. Surrender, I thought, is what I truly want with the hard things in my life. The things I'm too selfish to give up. Not modified behavior. Instead of submitting myself to a change of behavior- I want to surrender myself in favor of another. The kind of surrender that comes with a sigh of deep acceptance, not begrudged submission.
I'm walking into the new year, surrendering. Will you join me?