The word surrender has a negative connotation in most people’s minds, myself included. Surrendering has always seemed like something that must be so painful to do. Picture Appomattox Courthouse, April 9, 1865. I don’t care which side your folks were on, hundreds of thousands of men died fighting for what they believed in…for it all to come down to a surrender. For nothing, it seemed. That is heart breaking. Such loss and nothing was even won. It was all for what? A surrender is a defeat. Giving up is the harshest of things in terms of war, the fall of an army, a people… and yet the leaves on the trees are about to show us how beautiful letting go can be.
I didn’t make that notion up, about the leaves. I read it somewhere. But it’s also been written how much our physical state can affect our emotional state. Bear with me. If you look it up (it’s worth a Google), there are studies that show that making yourself smile will actually improve your mood. In the same way, when you are struggling with something (or someone) you cannot change, it helps to simply let your hands lay…palms up, open…just let them lie on your lap, open and releasing. The physical act of doing this helps your mind and heart let go, too. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. It’s worth the exercise, because letting go can be hard.
Surrender doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Maybe we don’t have to think of surrender as in a loss, but because we had the courage to quit fighting. Ceasing a fight means letting things go. Isn’t that the same thing as forgiveness? It might be someone else (or even you) that you need to forgive but letting that go instead of carrying it around is just the same as knowing when to call an end to the war. Lee surrendered, not because he quit believing in his cause, but because he saw he couldn’t win and he didn’t want any more men to die. How much collateral damage must we sustain in our own lives before we sit down for a treaty…and finally surrender and let things go?
Isn’t letting something go a little like getting over it? Some things are nearly impossible to get over, but sometimes we can at least find a different compartment in our heart to put it in. Somewhere in the back with a closed door so we don’t have to think about it as often. Somewhere to put the hurt so it’s more tolerable, a little like rearranging a closet. We have to make a better use of space. Your mind and thoughts are just like your house, maybe. You have a finite amount of space and need to keep it tidy and functional. Hurt and regret and worry sure do clutter up the place.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce said: “I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. I am tired. My heart is sad and sick. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” Freedom comes with surrender because you’re free to go home. You’re free to go to your safe place, wherever that is, where there is no conflict anymore. You’re free to fight another battle.
Maybe surrender doesn’t mean you don’t care; maybe it means you care enough to go on to something else. When you get tired enough of carrying something, you set it down. It’s not defeat; it’s courageous.
Because surrendering means saying you “can’t,” it makes you vulnerable. At the same time, it means you’re strong enough to go there. Like the front line soldiers in a battle. Who is the most vulnerable? The ones who put themselves out there in the line of fire.
Surrender is giving something up, giving something away…just like love. We give respect, we give it away. Isn’t love the same thing as respect in a lot of ways? When you show love, you show respect. And when you show love or respect, you humble yourself and make yourself vulnerable just like that soldier. You’re putting yourself in a position to be hurt; you’re allowing that the other person, pet, whatever can do that. That’s what love is. Respect and vulnerability. It’s a sign of respect, like you surrender to the victor in battle. In the same way, we surrender to God. You surrender your feelings to the one you love. You lay down exposed and unguarded and full of hope and fear, perhaps, simultaneously. Where one notion ends, another begins.
The older we get, sometimes, we might realize the futility in holding on to anything. We were never in charge to begin with. What a ridiculous, foolish misconception. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to the Lord. He is the Author and Finisher of everything. We’re all just here for a brief whisper, one flap of a passing crow’s wing, one lost piece of dust on the bottom of a foot. Nothing.
It’s not sad; it’s reassuring. There’s nothing really to surrender anyway when we realize nothing is ours to begin with. We don’t own anything, really. We are here for a flash and none of the things we worry about matter anyway except those that influence eternity. Thinking that everything is meaningless is not depressing; it’s a relief.
Because then there’s no need to worry. If the only thing that matters is eternity, and I’ve got that taken care of, then nothing else matters, and I can’t control it anyway. Only the One who is charge of eternity can, and He knows my name and He loves me.
Surrender is signaled by a white flag. I’ve looked up why that is, but haven’t found a definitive answer. When Lee surrendered to Grant, he did indeed use a white flag…but it was actually only a common dish rag. How fitting. At the end, in true fashion of a surrender, it was unable to even be done properly in the classic sense, but what did it matter at that point? The surrender was made just as well. How perfect that it was a dishrag. Things getting wiped clean, a new beginning, a beautiful surrender.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.