“It’s only words and words are all I have to take your heart away” (Barry and Maurice Gibb, 1969).
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” (Kinglake, 1830).
Words have tremendous power. They can build up, or they can tear down. They can describe beautiful vistas or blind us to the truth of a matter. They can be plentiful or few. They can be colorful or plain. They can set us free or enslave us. They are “our most inexhaustible form of magic” (J. K. Rowling).
We gravitate to words like “empower” or “beautify.” We are comfortable with words like “encourage” and “embolden,” “revitalize,” or “galvanize.” “Self-assertion” gets our juices flowing. Those kinds of words fill us with possibilities and promise. They help us think we can achieve a better world, a better life, a better tomorrow. We like those words.
Other words aren’t as appealing to us. These words scare us. They threaten our independence and restrict our movement. Words like “surrender,” “dependent,” “submission,” and self-sacrifice.” We shrink back from these words because they cost us something. These words required a relinquishment of our independence.
Happily, we can have both kinds of words (uplifting and debasing) in our vocabulary. We can be emboldened and self-sacrificing at the same time, but the order is supremely important.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The path to the truly good stuff in life (and death) begins with denying ourselves and surrendering what we want (or think we need) to be filled with what we really want and need.
Christ was explicit in His description of this life of self-denial. “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). Jesus knew that a life devoted to self-preservation, self-fulfillment, self-care, and selfishness was not a life He could use in His Kingdom. He needed willingly surrendered, empty-of-self vessels He could fill with His pure passion, power, and possibilities.
“The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment” (Elisabeth Elliot). In God’s Kingdom, we gain through losing. We attain through laying down our plans and accepting His plans for us. We advance by surrendering our wills to His will and grand purpose. By abandoning our hold on our own little kingdom, we can grasp the power of the Almighty Kingdom of God! We get what our souls truly long for by ceasing to strive for it ourselves and allowing God, through His Spirit, to provide it for us. “He is no fool who gives what He cannot keep to gain that which He cannot lose” (Jim Elliot). Jesus is calling us to a life of self-abandonment, surrender, submission, and sacrifice. He is using all those words which threaten to undo us to lead us to a life of abundant joy, fulfillment, and gain.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:25-27).
Face the fear of letting go of “you.” In humble obedience, place your plans, goals, desires, and life in the loving hands of your Creator – who knows you inside and out – and surrender to His gentle, capable hands. He is the only one you can truly trust for the outcome you so desire. “A Christian’s true freedom lies on the other side of a very small gate – humble obedience” (E. Elliot; Let Me Be A Woman; 1976).