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Springtime surrender

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The sun shone and the temperature crept towards 80; I went down to the creek to take a walk. I felt my soul stir, my senses coming alive. Bluebells were in full bloom; their bright colors shouted spring’s glory song. The air smelled like the earth was coming to life. To think I almost missed it. I’d looked at my to-do list, wrestling with my desire to draw clean lines through all the items and sigh with satisfaction over conquering the tasks and claiming control. For a few moments, I considered staying home and putting my world in perfect order.

Instead, I stopped along the creek bed with my youngest children and let them try to skip rocks for as long as they wanted. We meandered along a trail, noticing freshly fallen trees that had been victims of the latest storm. With every step, I felt the tide of adrenaline that tricks my body into thinking it must fight or flee — almost all day every day — recede and leave calm in my veins. Here was a place where I could just be, not worried about doing. Here was a place of surrender. 

In these woods, it is unlikely that a phone call will startle me into crisis management mode. Beneath these trees, I am a world away from the images on a screen that beckon me to “measure up” to other women who are better at home design, meal plan execution, academic shepherding, date night planning, and a myriad of other things to which I aspire, but feel woefully insufficient after just five minutes of scrolling. (I know, why not just give up scrolling altogether, right?) In this world, I feel joyful and refreshed, a lightness of spirit that was long-buried over the winter reminding me that I am a beloved child of an amazing Lord. 

In this place, I can surrender.

I don’t have to have it all together. The neat lists with careful, objective proof of progress are not really a measure of my worth or my happiness. They are certainly not a measure of my joy. More and more, I see that the truest measure of joy is the degree to which I surrender control. 

When we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He exalts us (1 Pt 5:6). It’s the truthful contradiction of living as a disciple. Submission is not oppression. Submission is freedom. Despite our lists and our comparisons and our 5-year plans, we don’t really have control. We never did. We are wholly dependent on God for our very existence and for every breath we take for our entire lifetimes. 

Lists have their place and we are certainly called to be good stewards of time and talent. But the illusion that our productivity and status buy our control is just that — an illusion. Surrendered trust in the Creator’s control liberates us. It allows us to serve and to rest, to work and to worship. It allows us to exhale into a perfect spring day. We are no longer at the whims of the master of false confidence, no longer being whipped along and tossed about in the storms of life. Our lists are intentional responses to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not desperate attempts to twist this world into our tight-fisted vision for it.

Springtime surrender can be the fiat of our souls. It’s the assent of our wills to do His will. It’s the recognition that our work — all of it — should truly be the work of His hands. And it is the quiet confidence that He provides. He provides the strength and the grace and the wisdom and the place — for whatever He intends for our lives. So, really, it’s okay to walk away from the kingdom you built with your own hands and your own plan, and step outside into the one He created for you.

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017