Surrender

Why hello there, Sunday. Up here in New England we are finally getting a tiny flavor of spring. Crocuses are poking through the lasagna layers of months old decaying leaves and sticks that fell during our magical autumn and wet winter. They are pretty brave. They have no idea if we will fall victim to the occasional April snow and they show up anyway, at the ready, with smiles on their faces so that when my kids walk by their young minds can remember how to appreciate summer. There are lots of jokes that spring is almost non-existent here, that it is too fleeting a season to even be worthy of a name. But it’s there, ripe and righteous, waiting for us to notice. It’s easy to see the gray when we are waiting for the spring to actually SHOW UP. The continual gray that consumes us from November until nearly May is obtuse and invasive. It can be tough to be around. We behave almost like we have become colorblind. Our built-in-forgetters take hold and we can’t remember what the color red looks like. We get depressed. We begin to think there are no other ways out, that we must live like this forever. That the trees will always be barren and look like quiet prisoners of their conditions. In my original line of work, Chinese Medicine, we look to nature as our teacher. I am trained in the Taoist branch which talks about the “Universal Truth” as this great force that energizes and supports all things. A stone has just as much life as a shark, a raindrop just as much force as a glacier. All of those things can kill a person. And all of them can become useful for a person. What is happening here is called perspective. Everything around us and within us is actually created by us. It is created by the perspectives we learn to build based off of what has happened to us in our past. No one person’s perspective is exactly the same as another person’s. And perspective is only built on comparison of our own personal history. History that is unique to our human experience here. So if I want to be happy about the slow spring that never seems to come before I am hit with a violent, sweltering, two weeks of summer, I must check in with my perspective. Any number of things can change this on a daily basis. The way a friend speaks to me, the way my kids look at me, the way that driver flipped me off, the way I put my head down in shame when I have some emotional flashback of abuse. And that is supposed to happen. Perspective is supposed to be dynamic. We are dynamic beings. Without this malleability, nothing changes. And, as some of Bill’s friends may understand, “nothing changes if nothing changes.” So we must lean in to the change if we wish to grow. To do that takes great courage and humility. Courage to be open to a different perspective and humility to admit that our current one is no longer serving us. It looks simple on paper. Everything does. But truly practicing this takes time, grit, and patience. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about Surrender and what that means. What that REALLY means. One definition of surrender means “to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” It seems scary as hell, and belittling and ass-backwards and, in this day and age, really just quite outdated. After all, we live in a time of rights! and fights! and resistance! No way will we surrender until the fight is won! Surrender often becomes synonymous with defeat. Loss. Abuse. Submission. Patriarchy. But I challenge you here. What if surrender meant freedom? What if surrender meant truly looking at the pieces of yourself that you really can’t stand….but that you also can’t change? And in the looking, in that “seeing of the gray” that often shows up for us when we explore those parts of self that are less than exciting, we start to see color–crocuses, fighting life through the lasagna of our pains and experiences we’d rather forget. Luckily, due to our vast English language, there are other definitions of surrender. My favorite happens to be this: “The emptying of self so that God may live through the believer.” To surrender means to make space for something else. Something bigger, wiser, lovlier. To let go of that which we cannot control or change allows for a blank canvas on which to paint a–wait for it–different perspective. And if we are open enough, if we can let go of our pre-conceived notions of what ‘God’ means and ‘believe’ means, if we can REALLY search for the nugget of truth underneath, we begin to blossom like the spring. Before we know it, we are full of tulips and hyacinths, and bees, and bear cubs, and cherry blossoms and thawed rivers. And, here is the secret. We can stay spring forever. We can be colorful forever. Surrender is not an event. It is a process. It is a direct line to freedom, if we do it with the right intentions, if we allow it to work for us in a productive way. Today, I choose to surrender my expectations for the day. I have zero control over how my day will eventually turn out. Sure I have ideas, plans. I plan to go to church this morning, ice skate with the kids, and then train with my weightlifting team. But the surrender comes with not only being open to any one of those things changing or not working out the way I expected, but being OK with that. Surrender means even finding peace in allowing for joy to replace disappointment. I always say to the swimmers I coach after a bad race…”you can have the feelings of sadness, or disappointment, or fear, or defeat, but you can’t live there. Take 5 to be in the feelings and then you come back, because this is where you are now. The race is where you were. It is not where you are.” It is so important to realize that nothing changes if nothing changes and also that time takes time. We must be gentle with our fiercest critic (ourselves) because without compassion for that part of us (for me, that part is quite horrific), we can’t get really honest about the things we need to change. And in order to have compassion for our self-critics, we must surrender to being open to what life would be like if we loved that part of ourselves. And then when we surrender, our new perspective is there like a patient parent waiting for us to finally know the lesson they were graciously trying to teach us. So folks, go out today and find your crocuses. Make space in yourselves for the joy in this world to fill. For God to fill. I promise it will be messy. And I promise it will be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever done.

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