In her book, Teach Us To Want, Jen Pollock Michel wrote,
It sounds terrifically cliché, but I don’t suppose any of us decides our come- to-Jesus moment. We don’t get to plan our Damascus road conversions.
And I’m continually amazed at the truth of these words. We don’t get to choose. We don’t get to plan how God will come to us. This is good. This is grace.
The quiet work I’m doing right now is forcing me to take a long look at the roads I’ve traveled. I’m having to come clean about the ways in which I have failed, the ways in which others have failed me, and the ways in which God has been at work in all of it. It’s soul-work, which is messy business. It’s surprising sometimes how tender old bruises can be, how weepy wounds of the past still ooze a bit when squeezed, even gently. It hurts, but I don’t run from it. I’m learning to lean in. In the leaning in, I find myself righted.
As I make my way around my own journey to God, His long, mostly veiled presence becomes clearer. It’s been 5 years since I encountered grace and there are few memories as palpable to me, as that season of wrestling with God, and coming away utterly changed. Limping. I would never have chosen that moment for that encounter.
When I remember how stiff-kneed I was in those years, I feel certain I would have put God off forever. Every day, I am thankful for the breaking. Learning the way of surrender has been the most difficult and dangerous journey of my short life. Learning to live according to God’s purpose and plan, without my permission, without my direction, and without my hands on the wheel has felt like a free-fall, a risk to end all risks. Because it is. And because the bending, learning the language of submission costs something.
It costs everything.
Besides Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
In learning the way of surrender, I find myself with two choices, I can be angry and resist God’s interference with my life, or I can see it for what it is–an intervention, salvation. When we’re drunk with control, when we’re high on the power of managing all of the things, we lack the ability to see clearly our own desperation. To identify our own depravity. In our stupor we declare, there is no god but me.
When God finds us wandering the wrong direction down the back alley in the dark, when God picks the scales from our eyelids, this is the goodness of God that sees clearly all that we cannot. This is the sobering mercy of a Father eager to save His wandering babies from the looming pit waiting for us at the edge of the cliff we are headed for. Bleary-eyed and buzzed on self-sufficiency, we convince ourselves that we’ve “got this”, that we aren’t as wayward as He says. And that’s the biggest lie of all. Apart from God we can do nothing.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. (John 15:5-8 Msg)
This is Lent. The penitential season of reflecting on and remembering the cost of discipleship. This is an altar building season. An opportunity to surrender. An invitation to let God burn our broken lives down to the ground, to reduce us to ashes in order that something fresh can come from the sacrifice. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. (John 15:16, Msg)
In Him, we rise.