I think my sister Alisa has that phrase tattooed on her arm. Of course, I might have made that up. I don’t actually know where it comes from. But lately, it’s been running through my mind and heart, today prompting the questioning prayer, “Why is this surrender so sweet?”
A couple of weeks ago, my husband pointed me to an essay by Elisabeth Elliot on the essence of femininity. I pondered his notes for a few days, not having read the essay myself, unaware that my heart would soon need to run in search of its truths.
Elliot looks at Mary the mother of Jesus –
“A young woman is visited by an angel, given a stunning piece of news about becoming the mother of the Son of God. Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary’s answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: ‘I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said’ (Luke 1:38).”
She goes on to declare what she understands to be the essence of femininity: Surrender.
(In her footnotes, Elliot clarifies that she does not want to be misconstrued as advocating a woman’s surrender to evils such as coercion or violent conquest.)
“Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage…As a mother she makes a new surrender – it is her life for the life of the child…
The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it ‘of great worth in God’s sight’ (1 Peter 3:4), is true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary, the willingness to be only a vessel, hidden, unknown, except as Somebody’s mother. This is the true mother-spirit, true maternity…
Femininity receives. It says, ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ It takes what God gives…In other words, it is for us women to receive the given as Mary did, not to insist on the not-given, as Eve did.”
While Elliot points to the specific calling to women, she also points to the calling of Christ to all of his followers: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
So why is this surrender so sweet?
Because He is so, so good. So faithful. So strong. He holds the world in the palm of His hands. He is working all things for my good, conforming me to the image of His Son. He is my shield; the lifter of my head; the God who sees me. The God who did not spare His own Son, but graciously gives.
Makes me think of a restless baby who finally sleeps in her mother’s arms. There is safety and security and peace and comfort. There is no more need to stir. There is no need to grasp for control that was never truly had to begin with. Instead there is repentance and rest, stillness and trust.
I’ve never found such comfort in who God is before this week. But as idols fall, crashing and shattering and proving their far reaching inadequacy, my God stands firm – Our Anchor in the sandstorm.
So I grieve the loss, but not with clenched fists.
It’s not that I don’t wonder why. As my husband pointed out – accepting a lot with quiet resignation leads only to distance. I ask – I scream and cry and beg until I collapse weeping in the arms of my Father, basking in His comfort, resting in His grace, praising Him for what I am certain He is doing even though it remains yet unclear. So I lay all that I hold dear at Jesus’ feet and declare with confidence through streaming tears and quiet sobs: The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed by the name of the Lord.
Because I know my Redeemer lives.
How sweet this surrender.
If Thou shouldst call me to resign
What most I prize, it ne’er was mine;
I only yield Thee what was Thine;
“Thy will be done!”