It was fall of 2012 when I met Surrender. I held no interest or much regard for her until our moment together. I think some are wired to naturally obey, quickened to compliance, but that’s not me. A bucker of constraints and anything that feels restricted or controlled, that is me.
Yeah, I’m not about it.
But she found me broken and defeated as her reputation proves, and I had no fight left within me. I was at a low point and desperately needed help. I needed the in my weakness He is strong verse to really make some noise, because my weaknesses were peaking and the plummet was downright brutal. A full on crash-site, I tell you.
Caution: there are bloody trails and unmistakable damage.
At this point, pride held no power over me, and if you’ve been here, you know full well what I mean. You’ve run up to the end of yourself, to the edge of your cliff, and you’re left with only two options: turn yourself around and walk back the road that brought you here. Or jump…jump and let Freedom do its job.
I didn’t turn around. Yes, I did the better thing—the spiritually correct thing, but it wasn’t pretty. I jumped, but it looked a lot like the first time I was coerced into leaping from diving board to swimming pool—a lot of squirm, a lot of shout, and a lot of quiver.
I did not jump because it was easy, nor did I jump because I was full of faith. It was none of the above. I jumped because I had to. I hated who I had become. I jumped because I craved a different life. I jumped because I was sick of my own misery. For the first time in my life, I recognized that I desperately needed God. And so I jumped, flailing in mid-air, willing to risk it all.
HOW DID I GET HERE?
I don’t think most of us wake up this way, eager to surrender. Unless you’re like my husband who gave his heart away at the mere age of five. No, I think for most of us it’s a series of events, many of them painful. I think for most of us, it looks a lot like process.
I know I’m not alone here. I loved God. I never once questioned His existence. I knew His voice…I still recall the moments. I knew He designed me in His almighty hands, but I had never let Him hold my heart. Not fully.
But you were a pastors wife! I was. And I am. But don’t you know? We can love and serve and preach God and still not let Him own us. I wasn’t living my days in deliberate sin. I wasn’t cold-blooded, cruel, and heartless. I was just comfortable. The very worst kind. The greatest danger for an influencer is idleness…the greatest enemy to any one of us is comfort. And the more it went unchecked, the more it manifested. And it wasn’t long before everyone was getting a whiff.
The day after my plummet overboard I attended a small women’s Bible study. Thankfully, this was a season in which I was not leading. Often feeling guilty for that decision, I understand now that it indeed was strategic from above. I stumbled in late, still jagged from the crash site, but attentive. I fell, quite literally, to my knees during worship. I was hungry—like some kind of wild woman, set and waiting to move Heaven and earth for answers. My ready ears were fine-tuned for something…anything, but only one thing broke through the milieu that day. A song. And it goes…“If you’re tired and thirsty, there is freedom. If you’re tired and thirsty, there is freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
I remember thinking…that is me and I need that. Freedom. I need that. I know this verse. I’ve read it a hundred times. God, I need your Spirit so that I can be free.
I went home and studied that verse: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). I took it apart, every stitch of it, until I was marked by it.
The early a.m. hours approached and I took myself to bed. My mind raced over the day, and I swore I could stay up for years without sleep. All the years wasted, I thought. A sloth in the hands of the Enemy. Wasted moments kept cozy in pure, perfected lethargy. In order to decompress, I decided to check my YouVersion app, something I rarely did. And the first thing to hit my screen in all her worded glory was the verse of the day: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And in that moment I was hooked. This was no longer just a verse or a passionate search. This was a personal dialogue. This was God getting my attention…and I was listening.
God was close. He was no longer just my God of choice that I believed in and prayed to. I was experiencing Him. Seeing and tasting. I was waking up.
After that, I dug into the basics. I started at the root, striking my sin with scripture. I took my bondage by the horns, shoving it downward where it belongs with the words of God.
My intense journey launched me head-on into a woman named Jennie Allen. She was my voice in the desert. Jennie had just released a book called Anything : The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul. Her book takes you on the journey to surrender, a prayer that will move you to stop chasing things that just make you feel happy and start living a life that matters. A life that is surrendered, reckless, abandoned.
It destroyed me.
I could not bring myself to pray it. I could not utter the words. God was so near to me in those days, like the lingering vibration after an earthquake…so present…so loud. It was as if He was the book, and the words written had been translated into a language all its own, formulated specifically for me into something only I could interpret. His fingers pressed against my heart stitching tight the leaks, interrupting my comfort and my plans, and grinding life to a halt. He kept me low in my brokenness, and I walked like that of Jacob, limping from all the wrestling.
But I was afraid. What would it mean to give God anything? To say, You have me, whatever that looks like. Whatever you want to do with my life, it’s yours, I’m yours. Even if it’s costly. Even if that looks like suffering. Even if that means my greatest fears coming true.
I couldn’t do it. I was afraid of what He’d want from me. I was afraid that at any moment after, the ceiling would come crashing down. Would He allow my daughter to suffer? Would I get cancer? Would He move our family somewhere unsafe? I couldn’t give over the things that were most precious to me. Not yet.
I was stuck in limbo, dangling between deliverance and freedom. I wasn’t questioning my old route home, but the narrow path forward felt like darker days. What would happen if I said anything to a God who could do everything?
I finished the book, but my story was just beginning. I kept my anything clutched close in hopes that one day I would find the courage to speak it. In October 2012, Grant and I attended a missions service at our church. We heard stories from those living in far away places, far from families and the familiarity of home, many in remote villages, many risking their lives daily for this faith they considered worth dying for. These services were not new to me. I was 7 years into ministry and had heard them all. But my heart was different. The in-between had not left me. On one hand I was secretly rolling my eyes because I knew my husband would be on a plane tomorrow if it were left to him. And on the other hand I was softened, attending to every word. The last speaker of the night shared his story with us, his experience abroad with a family of little ones and a son with disabilities, toe-to-toe moments staring danger in the face with a God who delivered them through every obstacle.
That was the moment I broke. The barricaded dam inside me burst, releasing months of hard yeses that brought me to this point. The words he shared were laser sharp, slicing through the fearfully-barred gates of my heart: family, safety, deliverance. Did God care even about that? Fervently weeping and without hesitation I cried out, Anything God, it’s yours. Anything you want to do with my life, I am yours. In an instant, fear was gone. It was done.
This was anything but ordinary, because, you see, I am a daughter of fear, raised in a family of fear. We clung to fear like a country dog does its bone, inseparable. And despite their best efforts to edit our family’s history and restore bravery into our veins, no human could muster enough bravery for me to give God my anything. What I experienced that night was beyond any human ability. The missionary’s story was inspiring and incredibly powerful…but that was not enough to set me free. My husband, who has always desired the mission field and who carries the power to move me on most things, could not pry this door open. It was bolted shut in the name of fear.
What happened that night was not about a good pastor’s wife making the right choice. Need I remind you, hard obedience is not my forte. This was not behavior modification or some kind of ploy to change the world. This was God, who holds the keys to Freedom. He is the door to freedom. He is freedom. And He is the antidote to fear, to every doubt and every rough soul.
It was God that met me that night, on the other side of surrender…not at the point where we are finally able to utter our anythings. He meets us at the crash site, in our lowest moments, where we finally recognize it is Him we need most. He was my first-responder and He remained with me. I doubted Him, doubted that He would stoop so low. And maybe that’s what you need to know here—that the character and nature of Jesus is that He would get down on our measly levels and walk with us. That He’s able to take what you’ve always known, what you’ve always been, and make you into something you never dreamed possible. That He doesn’t sweep over your life, tossing you into some broad category, but He’s personal and detailed and precise. That He knows your kids. That He hasn’t overlooked your concern, dismissing it as irrelevant or unimportant. That He actually knows what He’s doing. That He knows what is best for you.
3 years later, and my plans look very different. Soon, our family will board a plane to a faraway land and call it home. A land with a mosque on ever corner, a culture that stands fiercely opposed to the gospel, a place where our safety cannot be guaranteed. My greatest fear then is now my very present reality. Isn’t that something? That God would use my once uncompromising ‘no’ for His purposes. And not only would He use me, but that He would give me a heart for the task.
I found that Surrender is not an event but a journey, a journey with a lot of hard, everyday yeses. I often picture it like the day I took to the diving board. I’m left with the choice to either stand on the cement poolside where it’s safe and predictable, or take the leap. One step at a time I walk, slowly inching my way across the rough white texture. It’s up to me if I exist there never fully letting go enough…never really trusting enough to finally take the plunge. And so we bounce there, heels leaving the sandpapery board ever so slightly again and again and again…until we jump.