Degrees of Surrender
“Are we back here again?”
She looked at me with conflicted eyes. “I thought I surrendered this? I thought I had dealt with this? Why can’t God just take this out of my life?”
I stood there staring back at Sarah, searching for the words to say. She was right. She had dealt with this before. I was there. I saw her surrender her heart and life to God. I saw her struggle to give certain portions of her life wholly when God was asking for them. I’ve seen God break her, and I’ve seen her tired of fighting, ready to allow God to do whatever He needed to in order to make her love Him more. She had surrendered.
I had been there.
But what can I say now? What can I tell her as tears stream down her face broken by the status of her heart? She looks at me for answers.
I pray a quick, “Lord, help me.” And it clicked. As I stood there staring at a girl struggling with surrender, it hit me. I realized that there are degrees of surrender that we go through, five degrees specifically. From superficial to deep, from compartmentalized to total.
The Unrelenting Yielder
This first degree is hard to define as surrender because it is the complete opposite, an antithesis of a succumbing heart. This girl is the Unrelenting Yielder. This person is willfully, actively, undoubtedly pursuing disobedience of God in her life. Some biblical examples of this woman would be Vashti (Esther 1) or Jezebel (1 Kgs 19-21). This is the woman who is shaking her fist in the face of God, screaming, “I will not yield.” She is unrelenting in her fervor to squash God’s authority in her life.
The Selective Yielder
As harsh as the unrelenting yielder sounds, the next isn’t that far off. There may be bouts of surrender marking this woman’s life, but she in no way is defined by them. I would call this woman the Selective Yielder. She says, “Ok, Lord, here’s my life, oh…but stay out of this area. This area is mine, and you cannot have it!” (Fist goes up) “This I will not yield!” I can see Hagar (Gen 16-21) or Naomi (Ruth 1) exemplifying this quality in their lives. This woman’s life is usually marked by hard-crushing periods where God is trying to get her to surrender one more area over to His working and control.
The third degree is rather sporadic and impulsive in surrender. This yielder is either all in or all out! Like an emotional rollercoaster ride, her life has been marked by extreme highs and extreme lows. During the highs, her life is 100% surrendered to God and she is walking closely to Him. However, with every high there is a low, and these are the times when she is walking separated from God as she chases after her own pursuits and the whims of her heart’s desires. This woman wants to do the right things and please God, and when she hears Him speaking to her, her heart is quickly broken over her sin. On the flipside, however, she is “prone to wander” and so easily distracted by the trappings of this world and the desires of her heart. She, like Miriam (Ex 15; Num 12), will be greatly involved in her body of believers, and yet easily swayed by the inner struggles of her own heart.
The fourth degree of surrender would be a closed-handed approach. It goes like this: “Ok, God, this is yours. I trust you with this,” said while her hand is out-stretched to God and that thing that she needs to renounce is held tightly in her fisted-hand. “No really, God. I mean it. I trust you. Take it.” Hand still clenched tight. “I surrender.” Hand unaltered. Sound familiar? I immediately think of Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) when she came to the temple with her offering to God. Her words were expressing the sacrifice her offerings were taking, but her actions betrayed her. In fact, she was lying to the very face of God.
The Conceded Yielder
This final degree of surrender is what God requires of us. It is full 100% resignation to obey the will of God, no matter what the cost. Hannah would be the exemplar of this degree of submission. She called out to God; He answered her prayers; and she followed through on her commitment to obey Him. It wasn’t just, “Ok, Lord, if you don’t want me to have this, take it out of my life.” It was, “This is Yours, God. Completely. I take it out of my hands, place it in Yours, and walk away.” For that is exactly what she did; she asked God for a son, He gave her Samuel, and she brought him to the Temple and left him there. THAT is the level of commitment God is seeking from us. THAT is the type of reckless abandonment Paul is speaking of in Romans 12 when he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:1-2)
THAT is the degree of relinquishment Isaiah describes when he said, “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, Be gone!” (Is 30:21-22)
I love this picture drawn by the prophet Isaiah. For the only way I know how to have my eyes constantly beholding my Teacher, and be able to hear His voice behind me is for my Teacher to be holding me in an embrace, with His arms wrapped around me. It is this constant and intimate fellowship with God that motivates the Conceded Yielder to gather all her idols in her heart and cast them out, saying, “Be gone! I don’t want you anymore!”
I finished my speech as I looked at her.
Sarah, with eyes overflowing said through her tears, “I want to be the Conceded Yielder. I do. I don’t want to hold on to the junk of this world any longer.” So, right there, in the bathroom, I prayed.
And I walked away from the mirror, completely yielded.