Giving it up

I’m giving You my heart
And all that is within
I lay it all down
For the sake of You my King
I’m giving You my dreams, I’m laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride
For the promise of new life

And I surrender
All to You, all to You…

Marc James, ‘Surrender’ verse 1 – click here to listen

I found myself singing this old worship song this morning… I didn’t get as far as the second verse, but it was amazing to find myself singing at all! It was always a favourite when I used to play my guitar regularly, so I know the words, but somehow this time the choice the writer made of the 3 specific things He is choosing to give up really hit home: his dreams, his rights and his pride. 

He must have thought about that – when writing one tries to choose every word with care, how much more when it is a prayer from the heart like this one sung with the raw honesty that is needed when you are talking to Someone who already knows everything and is going to take you at your word! Be careful what you sing to God: as they say, ‘Christians don’t tell lies, except when they sing’and you might not be ready to make the prayer the songwriter has fashioned! Well, who has ever prayed for more patience and then wondered why life becomes so frustrating? Or who, in a moment of carefree abandonment, has cried, “Anything for You, Jesus!” and then found themselves out of their depth in the challenges that can bring? (me, perhaps…but I have no regrets ;-)).  So beware of songs written out of someone else’s experience and journey sneakily putting words into your mouth before the devotion has been fired in your heart!

Not quite what it meant…?

‘I’m giving you my dreams’ In this fortnight of Olympic endeavour that concept of dreams, of longed for goals being achieved seems even more real as every day we see the medal winners’ joyful disbelief and tears of wonder at their victories and the losers’ devastation at having all their dreams shattered – everything they were working for, aiming for, lost – for at least another 4 years, if not for good!  Dreams are powerful to motivate us, some of the most precious things we hold – and the faster we run after them, the more we invest them with the power to painfully disappoint as well as thrill us.

How much safer to give the things I cherish to the Lord – my hopes for the future, the deep and maybe secret desires that will fulfil me… But – dare I entrust my dreams to God? Loving God ‘with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ (Luke 10v25-27) doesn’t really leave room for anything else – but it does require a lot of trust, because even if I know He is good and powerful and for me, If I give them up to Him, He may not give them back!  No matter what the ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers say, there is simply no guarantee I will attain everything I want in this life – not all dreams come true. When you consider how many athletes compete for the medals, most dreams don’t come true. It is heart-rending stuff! Perhaps, even more heart-rending are the dreams individuals carry about love, marriage, children, calling – that never happen: sometimes there are no answers to the loss.

Compared to never having a longed-for husband or child, my dream is trivial: I really want a solitary, peaceful, white, thatched, country cottage with a beautiful garden and roses round the door… seriously, that is my dream! I could actually make that my primary aim and start looking for one: Psalm 37v4 even says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart’… but that’s no guarantee either, because I know God is not a vending machine and anyway, another way of looking at this scripture is that if I delight in Him, He will be able to change my heart’s desire, so that what do get turns out to be what I want!  And maybe this can be a comfort, to be able to let go of that deeply ingrained desire, to find there can be another way – that Someone else knows best.  So, ‘I’m giving You my dreams’ and it’s OK: if it’s in the Lord’s best plan I’ll get my cottage – but maybe not until I get to heaven – and if not it won’t matter, because once I’ve given it up it can’t hurt me anymore: my treasure can’t be stolen.

‘I’m laying down my rights’ Dreams are deep things: rights tug on a different part of us. Because of humanity’s great sense of justice, ‘rights’ have become a modern watchword: ideally they set standards for the championing of the poor and vulnerable – defending the weak, giving equality to all people of whatever age, race, creed or gender. They work best when we defend other peoples’: when I defend my own it can be at best defensive and at worst proud arrogance. Perhaps we may disagree on what our ‘rights’ should be anyway – though I know these standards have been set by the United Nations with all the best intentions at heart.

Heaven’s perspective

But when I come before God in trust and humility, there is no standing on ‘my rights’. Everything I have and am is gift and grace… I deserve nothing in and of myself. Heaven’s economy is different: there is grace, mercy and blessing on one side of the balance sheet and pure gratitude and surrender on the other. I do not have the right to live in a developed country with plenty of food, water, comfort, housing, sanitation, clothing, freedom, education, leisure, entertainment… but through birth, through grace I do – and much more besides. So I lay all that back down – which is, I suppose, what the martyrs did, overcoming by ‘not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death’ Revelation 12v11

‘I’m giving up my pride’: here again Marc James has gone for the jugular! Perhaps this is closely connected with ‘rights’, it can certainly rouse the same feelings. I don’t think it is about giving up one’s sense of worth or identity. These days ‘pride’ is so often about the gay marches where the differences of a minority are worn as a badge of honour and flaunted, rather than being something to be ashamed of. Whatever we think of gay culture, they are certainly refusing to be cowed and shrink back from who they are: ‘we’re going to come right out and show you who we are and we’re proud of it’! Perhaps an easier feeling to identify with is the pride many of us felt to be British after the Olympic opening ceremony 🙂

There is something we can learn from this: true humility is not false modesty, speaking ill of ourselves, refusing compliments or pretending to be something we are not. It’s much more about knowing exactly who we are, strengths and weaknesses, good points and failures, but not counting that as to our credit – because again it is pure gift. Being proud of what we achieve – as those medal winner have the right (ha!) to be – is alright up to a point, but the humility comes in acknowledging the help of others – as they also have been doing.  Self-effort will never be our salvation and we are meant to be inter-dependent, aiming to promote and prefer others above ourselves is the way of love – admitting we are not right but only God is right and we don’t know everything – we haven’t got all the answers and that’s OK: we are not perfect, just forgiven, we are not the whole picture, just a small shiny piece 😉 We don’t have to force ourselves on others and when we are wrongly judged or misunderstood we can follow Jesus’ example, Who ‘when He was accused didn’t defend Himself but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly’ (1Peter 2v23). Yet again it is about trust and surrender of the things that mean most to us – our reputation, our honour, how we look in the eyes of others. Maybe that’s why it counts as true worship and ‘more than a song’!

This principle applies to everyone and anyone, because to ‘worship’ anything is to give it that kind of precedence and priority, and we all do it to something or someone. Often it’s a lover: that’s why the old Anglican marriage service says “with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” Indeed it’s hard to see, if both partners really did this, how such a covenant could fail: if we always put our spouse’s needs before our own it is the greatest kind of love, the kind that lays down it’s life. For many people these days the aim of their existence is health and happiness, or their children – perhaps even wealth and success. But Jesus said we have to choose, God or money and you can’t serve, love or worship both (Matthew 6v24).

So well done, Marc James for hitting 3 nails on the head! This kind of complete surrender is the the whole point, the whole crux of what worship is. Who said being a follower of Jesus, a Christian, is a cushy option for weak people? It takes courage and faith to wholeheartedly  yield control! But undoubtedly the Lord is after our hearts and lives and as Jesus Culture sing, ‘You won’t relent until you have it all

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About Sally Ann

True-story teller - words and pictures
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