Surrender to Love

My will to live has been stuttering like a rusty old engine. Not because I’ve failed to be Christian enough, prayerful enough, or hopeful enough. Not because I haven’t done the prayer and praise and people and potluck dinners. Not because of anything. My motor just hiccups and stalls; reminding me that in the great spectrum of mental health, I am no Olympian.

My most beautiful intentions and best projects are so often interrupted by freakish, bad mental weather. Unseasonable, inconvenient Winter. There I am, going about my business, when suddenly everything in me seizes up. Everything says that the hard is too heavy. That the great ocean of meaninglessness that covers 60% of my personal planet is too vast to swim. That the burden of unsteady little me is too much for my people to go on living with. That I would be better off dead.

The mind is a strange and dangerous land.

Oh, my precious people, if I ever told you anything it would be this: Buried in seasons of utter lack there is a beautiful lighthouse. It is flashing a signal from the deepest and truest depths. Your high holy work is only this: to surrender to Love.

Over many years of feeling my way through periods of “the Dark Night of the Soul”, I have learned to follow the words of Charles Spurgeon who said, “Throw yourself on God’s faithfulness as you throw yourself upon your bed, bringing all your weariness to his dear rest.”

Absolutely nothing has taught me more about God’s character, faithfulness, and tender love than the raging storms of my mental health issues. They have forced me to surrender my performance, surrender my perfection, surrender my pride and rely with utter abandon on the grace and love of God.

Of course Sunday school teachers told me that this mercy is given freely, that God’s love is unconditional. Isn’t that a nice thought? But only when I had nothing to offer but my tears and my broken body did I learn to believe that it’s true.

It’s true. It’s just messier than we expected.

My holy work looks nothing like work at all. It looks like taking a nap. Only the finished work of Christ and his total and complete enough-ness is big enough to hold me in that moment. Only his love can look at me there and say, “Precious one, if you never got up again, I could not possibly love you more. And I could never love you less.” That is the gospel. And maybe no one knows it better than me… thanks to depression and anxiety.

It took me many years to learn (and more years to BELIEVE… and even more years to practice believing again and again every day) that God is pleased when I rest in God’s love. When I lay my fragile everything down in God’s enough-ness, God is delighted. Not even for a moment am I scorned or tsk-tsk-ed for dropping everything and wrapping myself in God’s sufficiency for my weakness. What in the whole world could be more surrendered to God’s sufficiency than laying down to sleep (in green pastures, if you like, although I prefer a bed) and believing that God is big enough to hold the things we have to put down when we are not enough for this?

This is a holy and hard work for the mentally struggling. It feels like failure, it feels like less, it feels like lack, it feels like something to feel guilty about, but it is Kingdom Work. It is the entire Divine Rescue Project condensed into one moment in time when a struggling soul at last lurches with complete abandon into the arms of God, surrendering to Love. Our last and only hope. This is Gospel come to life. It is God’s great delight to rejoice over us while we are napping ourselves back to stability.

How do I know? Because God’s word tells us that when even one little lamb wanders off, the Shepherd leaves all the other strong, united, useful sheep… leaves them to run after the silliest, wanderyest, storm-lost lamb. And when he finds it, he doesn’t eat it on his camp fire. No, he does not. He restores it to community and health and life. No matter what it took to catch that goof ball. (Matthew 18)

And God told us, when a vine is bruised and drooping and rotting on the ground, that God doesn’t break it off… God tends it. Digging around it. Propping it up. Always and forever a patient gardener through many seasons of hope. (Luke 18)

And God told us, when a candle flame is stuttering like a rusty engine, drowning in its own rising tide of wax, God doesn’t snuff it out. No. It would be so easy. “One little puff. Just turn your back, Jesus.” But God doesn’t snuff it out. I imagine God puts God’s hands around it like a little cup, bends God’s face down to the soft light, holds God’s breath so as not to be too much… then God just Hope Holds that little life back from a flicker to a roar. (Isaiah 42:3)

Little Lamb, you must take very tender care of you. That’s exactly what Jesus would do. Don’t be crippled by the notion that “bearing fruit” looks like solving everyone’s problems. Jesus is big enough for that. Your fruit is an ever-deepening trust. Even when you felt strong, your fruit was always just the work God did in you while you made yourself available. Take heart. God’s loving search, God’s tender tending, God’s faithful holding of us in our feeble hope: this is Kingdom stuff. Not to be skipped. Not to be scorned. Not to be forgotten. And certainly not to be ashamed of.

Grace Upon Grace…

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