I Surrender All?
Occasionally, we sing “I Surrender All” at church. Most of the time, I can barely get the words out. I feel like I’m pulling a Peter, making a big whopper of a promise I’m not sure I want to put myself on the line for.
It’s not that I don’t want to, or that I don’t love the Lord. I don’t take lightly the words I speak to God. If I’m going to tell Him “I surrender all” I want to mean it. To me, “all” means “all”; everything… with no hold barred.
Gulp. That means God could come to me, put His finger on something, say “I want that,” and I release it to Him, no matter what.
I have a hard time singing “I Surrender All” because I know what’s inside of me. I’ve always had a fierce independence streak. In my earlier years you could add full blown, anger-fired rebellion to it. The flip side of the coin was I was a control freak who was terrified of letting someone else have free access to the levers of my life. This was a result of being sexually molested as an adolescent; once you go through the hell of having your soul raped, trusting someone with the heart and emotions became almost impossible. Allow someone to have free access to all of my life? Forget it.
God’s done a lot of work on my rebellion and fear over the years, often through trials, suffering, and painful discipline. Testing either produces its God-intended purpose of burning our rebellion, pride, and fear away, or we resist, rebel, and harden our heart. By His grace I can say I allowed Him to use pain to mold and shape me for the better. Much of the rebellion and bitterness have been lifted from my heart; so have fear; at least, what I can see today. God keeps on exposing deeper places in my heart I didn’t see before, places that need work.
There’s only one way “I Surrender All” can be proven, and that’s if it’s given a big time test of obedience.
Abraham probably had one of the toughest obedience tests I know of, when God came to him and asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. That guy could have sang “I Surrender All.” Without question or hesitation that we read of in Scripture, Abraham obeyed immediately. It blows my mind; Abraham had prayed and yearned for Isaac most of his adult life, and then God put His finger on his son and said, “Let Me have him back.”
There have been moments in my life when God came to me and put His finger on something, and I obeyed. There have been others when His request freaked me out and I had to go through a long process of prayer and asking Him to help me submit my will to His before I could let go. There have been others where I flat out disobeyed, sometimes with dreadful consequences.
It’s because of this ongoing work in my heart, the knowledge of my brokenness, and my ongoing battle with self that I’ll probably never feel comfortable singing “I Surrender All.” It feels too much like an invitation to get an obedience test.
My prayer will probably always be more like “God, please help me to obey You. You know all of my selfishness, pride, and self-will better than I. Please help me to trust You.”
That would be a song I could sing in good conscience. Or without getting nervous that an obedience test was around the corner to prove whether I meant what I said when I sang “I Surrender All.”
Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2