In the New York Times today, the magazine section, there’s an article about the way we live and work post-pandemic. It’s a clever online thingamajig, where you scroll down to get glimpses of other people’s lives, homes and routines.
One of the people featured is a long-haul truck driver, travelling through the States in his huge shiny red refrigerated truck. Inside the haulage unit, it’s spotless and gleaming, and in the compact cab he has everything he needs to live an orderly life. We see him preparing a cooked meal (slow-cooked pork chops) and doing a nifty bit of housekeeping as he cleans the kitchen area, and then we see the view from the driver’s seat as he cuts through what looks – to me – like canyons, on wide, empty, winding roads.
When he gets the chance, he stops at roadside chapels to pray and, (I hope) to find someone to talk to. At night he draws the curtains in his cab and settles down under a blanket, and reads the Bible for half an hour. Wow. I love that man. Don’t you love that man?
That’s not my blog – I just wanted to share him with you, so that you can remember him in your prayers. A brother we will never meet.
So, here’s the thing. I’m still wedded to the Beatitudes. Glued to them. They’re a magnet drawing me back just about every time I open the Bible so that it’s become a habit, and then I usually go on for a few more verses, just because… well, just because this is Jesus speaking. I mean, come on, folks, this is Jesus! Who’s going to risk turning him off before he’s finished with us? Who’s going to shut the book before we know why we’ve opened it? So I read it and read it and read it…. just drinking it in. So simple. So clear. So complex. So challenging. As deep as the ocean.
I realise now that if we bring all the qualities of the Beatitudes together we have the perfect picture of Jesus. The perfect portrait. The more we conform to the Beatitudes, the more Christ-like we become. And I realise, too, that the portrait is one of complete surrender and total sacrifice, and there’s the rub, as Will Shakespeare might say. Who’s up for a bit of total submission? Line up for sacrifice, you lot and try to look cheerful about it! Whaddya mean, you don’t want to drop everything and follow a new master? Even the word ‘master’ makes the modern world wince.
This week I’ve had coffee with three very different men, none of them believers and all three seeking ‘something’, looking for answers to a question they can’t quite put into words. Each of these men is successful in their own way, one an engineer, one a carer, and one is retired. They are bright, cheerful and enquiring and, boy oh boy, they really do want to discover the answer they’re seeking. That elusive something that will make them truly and deeply happy, or content or fulfilled. They look as if there is nothing missing in their lives, and yet they know there’s that something. We might tentatively suggest that they are trying to fill the God-shaped hole (and they might look at us as if we’re nuts). The answer they’re looking for is the God of the Beatitudes, Jesus, humble, surrendered, sacrificial. And these successful men, with just enough money in the bank to be secure and enough people to love them, and pension plans in place, and reasonable health… and quite a lot of testosterone and a fair bit of mischief in their healthy veins…. how do they come to the place of total surrender and submission? Wow. That’s hard.
As I shared coffee with these blokes (other hot drinks are available) I found myself speaking about the God who stands at the door and knocks, the God who unconditionally loves them. With one, we read the Beatitudes together. When another asked about all the people who have never heard the Gospel – are they lost?- we considered the justice of God, his unending love, and looked at Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.
We roamed uphill and down dale, wandering down this byway, and meandering along that little avenue, but all I could do really was walk alongside and listen, while they searched. I couldn’t sort it for them, and I felt no pressure to do so, because I know that faith comes from God, from outside, not from yours truly. And that in itself is humbling. I was humbled. And happy to be so.
As I listened, I found myself praying for them, knowing that God hears the questions and the doubts and loves us anyway. He hears the indignation and the pride and the disbelief and the exasperation, and the denial, and he loves us anyway. And I know he will never give up on any of us. But these three conversations just confirmed for me that submission is everything. And submission is …. well, it goes against everything the world says is good. Submission is counter-cultural. It’s the great big fat looming no-no in the material world. And it’s the secret to everything good and beautiful and true.
I wrote to another friend , this week, another non-believer, this time a musician and someone who really doesn’t like the idea of church/religion and can’t quite separate those man-made things from God :
We sense the world differently. When you hear music you are lifted and nourished and intrigued all at the same time. Maybe the word is ‘taken’, as in you ’surrender’ to the music. You allow it to be, and that is enough.
When I read the Sermon on the Mount I am lifted and nourished and intrigued. I allow it to be, and that is enough.
Music is more than a series of sounds, or a merging of sounds. It has a life beyond the physical and that life is in you, in your surrender. Somewhere in the space and time between the musical instrument and the listener, the magic happens.
The words of Christ are – for me – beyond the sound, even beyond the meaning, even beyond the intent. They are music. They fill my soul. I listen to the whole song, the whole symphony and my innermost experience is one of completeness, acceptance, revelation.
What does it say to me? It says simply: This is life. This is how life can be. Simple, loving, disciplined. Not disciplined as with a rod or a harsh word, but disciplined like the simple lines of a boat are disciplined, allowing it to cut through waves, disciplined as the flat plane of a simple table is disciplined, allowing it to be of use, disciplined as the steady beat of the heart is disciplined, bringing life and love.
I read the words of Christ maybe as you hear music; not wanting to interrogate the moment, not wanting to separate this note from that echo, or this pause from that breath, not wanting to confront each note and thought, but to understand and appreciate them. And there, in that space of surrender, understanding flows.
5 thoughts on “Surrender”
loved reading your post.
This is what I see in your post
This is a thought-provoking and beautifully written post. The glimpse into the life of the long-haul truck driver and the exploration of the Beatitudes and surrender make for a compelling read. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your encouragement, Ely. Sometimes it seems the blogs are as insubstantial as a whisper, so it’s good to remember that sometimes, a blog here or there is OKish.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Luce Thank you Surrender; easily spoken, not so easily done but yes essential. Wonderful your sharing of the good news and your caring for folk Karen Xxx
Hmmm. Don’t be fooled by me, Karen. I bumble and stumble but God is good.
Luce don’t we all stumble n bumble! How are you? xxxx