Today while I was driving home, the song Undone, by FFH came on the radio. The chorus includes this line: "Come undone, surrender is stronger." This line has been ringing in my mind ever since. Surrender is stronger. Surrender is stronger. Surrender means to yield to the possession or power of another. It means to submit, to relinquish, to give up, to abandon. What could surrender be stronger than? Holding? Fighting? Conquering? No, this can't be. Holding is strong. Fighting is stronger. Conquering is stronger still.
God's Word is full of direction to us to submit to Him and to submit to others: "in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:6); "Submit yourselves, then, to God" (James 4:7); "Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!" (Hebrews 12:9); "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). And, Jesus' words: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34) What do these words mean? What does it mean to submit or surrender all of my ways to God? How do I submit to God?
In considering these questions, a chapter in a book that I read in 1999 came to mind. 1999. I am amazed and perplexed as to how this happened. Ok, not really, only God. But come on, I read anywhere between twenty and thirty-five fiction books a year. I read this book twelve years ago -- 240 books ago. Maybe more.
Anyway, the book is White Noise, by Don DeLillo. Makes my top five of all time list for sure. Chapter 16. Just to give you an idea, this book has 40 chapters. So, chapter 16 is not at a memorable spot. It starts this way:
"This was the day Wilder started crying at two in the afternoon. At six he was still crying, sitting on the kitchen floor and looking through the oven window, and we ate dinner quickly, moving around him or stepping over him to reach the stove and refrigerator." Wilder is a young boy in the book and the entire chapter is about just what the topic sentence says -- the day Wilder cried (for more than seven hours in a row). The narrator describes how he and his wife exchanged "drained and supplicating" looks. The mother spoke to Wilder "soothingly", "hefted and caressed him, checked his teeth, [gave] him a bath, examined him, tickled him, fed him, tried to get him to crawl into his vinyl play tunnel." The narrator describes the crying as a "rhythmic", "measured statement of short urgent pulses." He says: "At times it seemed he would break off into a whimper, an animal complaint, irregular and exhausted, but the rhythm held, the heightened beat, the washed pink sorrow in his face."
Any parent knows how painful and frustrating this experience has to be. You cannot figure out what is wrong. You have tried everything and nothing works. The narrator and his wife take their son to the doctor. He has no solution. Nothing physically is wrong. And after the doctor's visit, the crying "changed in pitch and quality. The rhythmic urgency had given way to a sustained, inarticulate and mournful sound. He was keening now. These were expressions of Mideastern lament, of anguish so accessible that it rushes to overwhelm whatever immediately caused it. There was something permanent and soul-struck in this crying. It was a sound of inbred desolation." The parents are at the end of their patience, on the brink of meltdown. They have no idea what is wrong and they don't know what to do to make it stop. Yet, making it stop is all they can think about.
Then something remarkable happens. The father sits with Wilder on his lap in the car. "I held him upright with a hand under each arm. As the crying continued, a curious shift developed in my thinking. I found that I did not necessarily wish him to stop. It might not be so terrible, I thought, to have to sit and listen to this a while longer. We looked at each other . . . the inconsolable crying went on. I let it wash over me, like rain in sheets. I entered it, in a sense. I let it fall and tumble across my face and chest. I began to think he had disappeared inside the wailing noise and if I could join him in his lost and suspended place we might together perform some reckless wonder of intelligibility. I let it break across my body . . . I entered it, fell into it, letting it enfold and cover me." Then, the crying stopped "suddenly, without a change in tone and intensity."
The crying was over and afterwards, "[i]t was as though he'd just returned from a period of wandering in some remote and holy place, in sand barrens or snowy ranges -- a place where things are said, sights are seen, distances reached which we in our ordinary toil can only regard with the mingled reverence and wonder we hold in reserve for feats of the most sublime and difficult dimensions."
This is one of the most beautiful chapters in all of literature. And in re-reading it, it strikes me just as it did the first time around, in a deep part of my soul. The reason it does and the reason I believe God brought it to my mind today is that it is the most concrete description of surrender that I know. When the father finally submitted to the crying, stopped trying to fix the situation or control it, and instead entered into it, let it crash over him, he was free. And what he saw in the moments of surrender was holy, wondrous, and sublime, things he could not have experienced but for the letting go, but for the surrender. While he tried to control, hold, conquer and fight, he felt nothing but fear, anxiety, impatience, aggravation and unease.
If I am feeling fear, anxiety, impatience, aggravation, or unease about something, I have not submitted it. I have not surrendered it. I am still holding on tight and I cannot be free. If I let go, there I will find the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. (Phil. 4:7)
Surrender is stronger.
Surrender is stronger.