Friday, 31 July 2015

Week #19: Practice Submission of Will.

In his book, The Making of an Ordinary Saint, Nathan Foster writes about a time where he decided to submit to his children.  For one whole day he allowed his children to define the games that were played, the food that was eaten, that parks that were visited.  Foster engaged in this experiment in order to lean the discipline of letting go, of laying down his 'oppressive desire to have [his] own way' (pg.32).  Foster writes:

" Jesus knew that as humans, we are by nature slaves - slaves to power, slaves to approval, slaves  to escapism.  So instead of leaving us bound to our selfish  desires, he calls us to chain ourselves to his rule of love.  Freedom through submission. " (pg. 33)

We often like to say 'Let God and Let God', yet this phrase is most often spoken of in times where we are pushed beyond our own competencies and prowess.  Submitting to God's will becomes the last resort.   Let go and let God, but only after you have tried everything in your own toolbox!  It is as if we are arguing that God will only step into our lives after we have been drained of all our power and effort.

And in fact, that is exactly what we are arguing.  'God helps those who help themselves' we say.  It's sounds good, but it is a lie that has seeped deeply into the contemporary religious ethos.  It subtlety suggests that faithfulness exists in following our own wishes and whims.  If God only helps those who helps themselves, then we are saying that God expects us to be leaders, controllers, and managers of His kingdom.  Divine help is only found in the context of getting our own way.

This, then, becomes the beginning of the 'heath and wealth' gospel that is so prevalent in the affluent west.  This undoubtedly breeds competition, because if God's power is understood as us 'getting our way',  then every interaction with another becomes a battle for divine favour.  Life becomes you vs. me, us vs. the, winners vs. losers. The  thought of submitting ourselves to God, then, begins to take on association oppression or weakness, or the wilfully allowance of someone to exercise dominance over us therefore abdicating our chance at divine favour and power.  We end up training ourselves to see the life of faith about nothing more than the fulfillment of our selfish and self-focused desires.  It keeps our eye on ourselves as that which is most important.

Submitting to the kingdom of God, and the Lordship of Jesus is not to be a last resort after we exhausted all possibilities. Neither is it about claiming a blessing in that which we have created by ourselves, or muscled through by our own effort.  We lay down the desire to get our own way - not because our way is necessarily bad or wrong but because it always pales in comparison to the plans of God for us.  God spoke to Jeremiah that words 'I know the plans I have for you'; those plans became the framework for Jeremiah's life and ministry.  In submission we remind ourselves that we are, ultimately, not in control.  We are not Saviour, or redeemer, or creator, or the one on whose shoulders rests all the things of heaven and earth.  In submission we take our eyes off of the self and reverently place them on Christ our Lord.

The decision to lay down the desire to push through our own will, voice, or plan becomes a place where we live this out.  It may be uncomfortable, but it ultimately becomes formative as it expresses the deep heartfelt prayer 'Thy kingdom Come.'  We lay down our kingdom in order to be found in his.  This doesn't mean that we are called to submit our will or desire in every and all situations. There is no 'door-mat theology' at work here.  Remember, submission is not about weakness or powerlessness. Ultimately it is about strength in the Spirit of God.  It is when we see a dominating spirit of competition being to rise within ourselves that we wilfully, gladly, and humbly lay down our will not to another - although practically speaking someone else may 'get their way' - but to the Spirit that is present with us.  Instead of ourselves, we focus ourselves in following where we feel the Spirit lead. There is incredible freedom in this.

Ultimately, we cannot seek first the kingdom of God and yet remain locked in the 'oppressive desire to get my way.'  We must lay ourselves down in totality, without reserve.

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