I recently received the following question: I have a question about surrendering ourselves to God. What does this “surrender” exactly mean and how should one go about in surrendering him/her self totally to God?
Surrender is allowing God to embrace us fully. It has to do with what Saint Paul said: “No longer I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Surrender in this sense does not have to do with “giving up”, being resigned or accepting despair or defeat. On the contrary, surrender is about becoming most fully alive by allowing God (who is our proper “home’) to fill us, become one with us.
The writer of Blog by the Sea has a very thoughtful post called “Love and the Will of God” in which she addresses surrender through the words of Saint Edith Stein (1891-1942), the Carmelite nun, writer, and martyr:
No finite spirit [Geist], to be sure, is capable of wholly embracing the Divine Spirit, but God — and he alone — embraces and encompasses wholly every created spirit. Those who surrender their selves to him attain in loving union with him to the highest perfection of their being and to that love which is at once knowledge, surrender of the heart, and free act. That love is wholly turned upon God, but in union with divine love the created spirit also embraces its own self — in knowledge, in joyful bliss, and in free self-affirmation. The surrender of oneself to God is simultaneously a surrender of one’s own self — a self which God loves — to the entire created world, and in particular to all spiritual beings united with God.
(Saint Edith Stein in Section 9 of Chapter VII of Finite and Eternal Being)
There’s a lot to chew on in there … good stuff to pray with and reflect on.
How we live this in everyday life is a whole other question. One of my little mantras is “Not my will but Yours be done.” I keep this mantra like a little bookmark in my mind to remind me in specific situations that I want to act out of what is truly good not just for me but for others and for whatever mysterious intentions God has. Sometimes it’s as “simple” as stepping back from a situation and realizing that I was so intent upon something that I forgot to check in with God. Sure God is in my desires and impulses, but so is a lot of me! So surrender for me might mean allowing for a space in myself to be open to God’s ideas and dreams for me, not just my own or those of people around me.
That’s just one way. Let’s see what others think about this …
What else does Surrender in this context mean to you? How do you live it out?