Last year I made an astounding discovery: God doesn’t need me. He is sovereign, divine, just, righteous, and perfect, while I am nothing, saved by grace from the punishment I deserve in an eternal hell. November is my birthday month and, taking stock of my life, I realized a thought pattern that needed complete elimination. Just because I have “dedicated my life to the Lord” and have given Him free lease to accomplish His will in me does not mean God will use me in the way I had once imagined.
“I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me as Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, both now and forever. Amen”—Betty Stam.
Taped to the front of my Bible, that prayer daily inspired, challenged, and encouraged me throughout my college years. Would I give up everything for God? The prayer became a continual exchange for me, a regular surrender. I began to dream—of the many ways God would use me, for I was convinced He would.
Surrender. It’s still a theme in a few fundamentalist circles. Somehow over the years I had adapted this inane notion that the more surrenders I made, the more God was obligated to use me. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: God is good, and He has a right to do whatever He will with His own. While many Christian circles are neglecting challenging their young people to full-time service, there are still those who preach that surrender of one’s life is natural and normal Christian behavior (See Romans 12:2). Certainly, in the zeitgeist of this day, emphasizing full surrender is lacking and ought be more esteemed.
I was not unlike many other Christian young people who grew up in my home church. At six, I gave God complete access to my life, said I was willing for Him to take me to the mission field, to give me a dozen children, to allow me to be put in prison, persecuted for Christ—whatever He wanted. All the while, I imagined myself to be selfless. And then, I again realized that God, in His sovereignty had neglected my imaginings and had given me a better plan. His will. A perfect way. Far better than I ever could have dreamed. Remember? God doesn’t need me, but I can believe Him to work out His perfect will in my life.
As I examined my thoughts, I realized that the imagined life of surrender still exists in the minds of many—especially young women. Aspirations and hopes fill their minds in a dreamy sense of reality that may or may never exist. Christian girls who fast and pray for the man they will marry—but then never marry, because God has other plans—at last must meet a point at which their idea of surrender is re-evaluated. Christian ladies who plan to go to a particular mission field to which they are convinced God has called them and then…He instead plans that they stay home, where they serve God in a way that is far from “glorious” in human eyes or do quiet work, unnoticed by others—must consider what they really meant when they dedicated themselves to “full-time” ministry.
Can there exist a sense of vain glory and the “pride of life” wrapped up in ambitious notions of surrender? As I examined my own heart, I saw that the esteem of men had, at times, motivated me even more than the divine wishes of a sovereign God. It became clear that, instead of focusing on what I had once heard depicted as “the best life possible”—meaning one spent as a missionary—or once heard proclaimed “the highest calling for women”—meaning time spent as a mother—I needed to adjust my gaze to view the never-changing Savior and embrace all He gives me as good and perfect gifts from His hand.
Dreams, goals, ambitions, desires—these may be good, but they are no substitute for meditation upon the sovereign God of the Bible. It is His perfect way (Psalm 18:30) that we should desire more than our own fictitious world of dedicated surrender. While giving oneself to the Lord is merely “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), imagining that somehow, because God worked in others’ lives in a certain Christian fairytale-like way, He will do the same for us, is preposterous, if not sinful. Let us muse more upon the Master and less upon ministry itself. Let us substitute the Sovereign for our supposed surrender and abandon ourselves to this Architect’s blueprint. Truly “our times are in His hands” (Ps. 31:15).