“Surrender: What a Beautiful Word” with Rev. Christine Kell
Surrender or submission? Giving up or giving in? True surrender is an attunement to divine flow, a way of being that may not be what you think. Find out more with Rev. Chris Kell.
A revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings, and songs from this week’s service are also provided below.
Community Circles Discussion Guide – Download and View
First Step: Plant your feet firmly on the earth. Using your five senses, give thanks to our Creator God for the countless ways God comes to us through creation- for all the beauty that your eyes see, for all the sounds that your ears ear, for all the scents that you smell, the tastes that you taste, for all that you feel (the sun, wind, rain, snow, warm, or cold).
Pray this day that you may be open and attuned to the countless ways that our Creator God comes to us through your senses, through the gifts of creation.Second Step: Let go of all the pain, struggle, regret, failures, garbage of yesterday – step out of it – leave it behind- brush the dust of it from your feet.
Third Step: With this third and final step, step into the gift of the new day, full of hope, promise, and potential. Give thanks for the gift of this new day, which God has made!
A Three Step Morning Prayer, by Jose Hobday
Show me the truth about this.
I now surrender all fears, doubts, and judgments, and invite the light of perfect consciousness to illuminate my path.
Pure love is present here and now, as God lives in every person I meet.
I send love and appreciation to all my associates, knowing with perfect confidence that he or she is guided by the same Great Spirit that guides me.
I am not separate from my brothers and sisters, but one with them.
I trust that my highest good is unfolding before me, and I accept the very best that love and life have to offer.
I am worthy of living in the kingdom of Heaven, even as I walk the earth. I claim it now.
Thank you, God, for loving me infinitely, and opening all doors for the highest good of all concerned. I receive your love and magnify it.
And so it is.
By Allen Cohen
“Surrender: What a Beautiful Word” with Rev. Christine Kell
Good morning. Thank you for joining our family here at One World this morning. It is always good to be here.
As Rev. Melanie mentioned last week, our theme this month is Your 12 Steps, with reference to the steps we take as we structure our spiritual path. We talk a lot about our spiritual paths and journeys here at One World. For example, Melanie talked about the Path to Enlightenment that the Buddha traveled, and lately I talked about the Path of Prophecy. We have explored the Paths of Peace, Compassion, Agape, and even the path through Grief.
The Path of Surrender
Today I am going to talk about another path, one I think is both the foundation and the goal for our entire spiritual journey, and the path that takes us through all the others: The Path of Surrender.
As with many other spiritual questions, I have wrestled with the concept of spiritual surrender for a number of years; since high school actually. I don’t know how they were permitted to perform at a Catholic high school, or really why they were even there, but one day a group of young Christian college students showed up to address the senior class. I admit I was very impressed with their sincerity and enthusiasm for their work, and to this day I remember how much I wanted to be as involved and devoted to my faith as these kids seemed to be.
What they talked about that day was following the path of spiritual surrender, being open to and accepting of a consciousness greater than ourselves, a Higher Power we could always rely on to be there for us. And that stuck with me, even though I wasn’t sure I completely understood what it meant.
I have a much better understanding of what it means to surrender spiritually today, but just so we are all thinking of surrender in the same way, let me start with – as usual – a definition.
Generally speaking, the word “surrender” has a negative connotation for many people. As a verb, according to Merriam-Webster it means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand; to give up completely; to give (oneself) up into the power of another; to give (oneself) over to something. It conveys the idea of submission, or resignation to something or someone not entirely willingly, or with any sense of joy or satisfaction. It can bring up feelings of humiliation, hesitation, weakness, or even fear.
When you put the word “spiritual” in front of surrender, it totally changes the meaning.
However, when you put the word “spiritual” in front of surrender, it totally changes the perceived meaning. In spiritual surrender what we give up is not ourselves, but rather our attachments to specific beliefs and desired outcomes; we let go of our preconceived ideas about how things should be, and rest in the wisdom of a greater Universal knowledge. With surrender, we stop attempting to figure things out on our own and we return to Source, allowing ourselves to be in complete service to the Universal Consciousness.
Now, when it comes to spiritual surrender, the first step is to understand who or what we are surrendering to, and who or what we are surrendering. This can mean different things for different people. Perhaps the term “God” resonates with you, or you may find that you are more comfortable using terms such as the Divine, The Universe, Source, Spirit, or perhaps even Love. What’s important is identifying what resonates with you, knowing that it may change or evolve over time.
Once you’ve identified a Higher Power of your own understanding, the idea of surrendering that which is holding you back or isn’t working isn’t about diminishing your own power or abilities; it’s about making you stronger. The goal is to know that you don’t have to rely solely on your own power or strength because you have access to and the support of something greater than yourself. In spiritual surrender, we let go of how we think things have to be and allow the Divine to be in charge of our lives.
Spiritual surrender is referred to as the “joy of surrender.”
Roger Gabriel of the Chopra Center tells us that in the Vedic texts, spiritual surrender is referred to as the “joy of surrender.” He offers three examples in which surrender is further explained:
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, who represents the Divine, tells Arjuna, “Abandon all varieties of dharma [purpose] and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear.”
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says, “Surrender is to say ‘yes’ to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
This last example is my favorite: Author Debbie Ford says, “Surrender is a gift that you can give yourself. It’s an act of faith. It’s saying that even though I can’t see where this river is flowing, I trust it will take me in the right direction.”
Why does surrender engender so much resistance
Why does surrender engender so much resistance, conscious or unconscious? One reason, I believe, is that we tend to confuse the spiritual process of surrender with giving up, with being passive or helpless and simply letting other people have their way. For years I looked at spiritual surrender as being weak and namby-pamby. I wanted to be in control of my own life and not just one of those touchy-feely kind of people who had no personality or strength of purpose. Surrender sounded lame and even a little scary.
This is not to say there is no value – and sometimes no choice – in learning how to give way, to let go of preferences. All genuinely adult social interactions are based on our shared willingness to give in to one another when appropriate. But the surrender that shifts the platform of your life, that brings a real breakthrough, is something else again.
“. . . life should not be so hard”
While I was researching material for today, I came across a letter I wrote when I was in seminary in response to something I had discussed with my advisor. This is what I wrote at that time:
I have been thinking about our conversation since we hung up, and I wanted to let you know how productive it was for me.
I got to thinking about the heaviness of heart and soul I seem to be feeling lately, and why that is. It seems to me that life should not be so hard, so heavy – and even knowing that it is simply our own reactions to the circumstances in our lives that cause us to feel heavy, sometimes we humans are prone to the “can’t help its.” And so it is with me; right now, I just can’t help it.
Yet, this is not a “bad” thing. Not being able to help “it” means I can finally just surrender to it, to life, and let go of all hope of control.
Life should not be so hard. So why is it? So much of life is “just.” Just until my truth becomes evident, just until I believe it, just until I know it inside and out, just until I can let go of whatever gets in the way of the seeing, believing, and knowing.
I wrote that a few years ago, so you can see that all those years between high school and seminary were spent resisting the idea of surrender. Those were a lot of years of uncertainty, anxiety, feeling lost and alone. But they were also years of feeling the constant pull of the Divine calling to me, urging me to surrender and all would be well. Finally, I began to listen, and to truly look at those people I thought of as soft. What I saw was a strength that surprised me. And a quiet confidence I envied. Maybe there was something to this surrender idea, and heaven only knew that I needed some support and direction from the Universe.
But the ego is incredibly strong.
But the ego is incredibly strong, and even the thought of giving up control of how we think things should be and letting go of our attachment to the outcomes, puts the ego into a state of hyperactivity. It wants to take back the control and so we struggle for a while longer, yet eventually we all come to the end of our rope and there’s nowhere we can go and nothing more we can do. Nowhere at all, and no matter what we do nothing works. We might feel frustrated, defeated, exhausted, tired of struggling and seeking, and we may be the biggest control freaks there are, but at some point in our awakening process we all come to the place where we have nowhere left to go.
This is the point where we finally are willing to lay down our fears and let go of the burden of carrying our worries and the need to control our desires, wants and goals. This is when we surrender and turn it all over to that ‘something’ (call it what you want), maybe out of sheer frustration, but usually because we’re literally emptied out, hollow, and worn out; exhausted, and so, so tired that we just can’t take it anymore.
Spiritual surrender is . . . always to the higher, deeper will – the life force itself.
Spiritual surrender is never to a person, but always to the higher, deeper will – the life force itself. In fact, the more we investigate surrender as a practice and a way of being, the more nuanced it becomes and the more we realize that, just maybe, it isn’t what we think.
True surrender is an essential and foundational process in our journey of spiritual awakening, but it’s also usually the last thing we come to do. It can take years before we conquer the fear and get to that point of faith and trust in the truth of the process. Moreover, once we’ve surrendered it’s often something we have to do over and over again. The good news is, it gets easier every time.
Surrender equals faith, trust, allowing, and accepting. We know it, and yet we fear it. It can happen many, many times and go in cycles, or phases, where we surrender, take back the control and struggle for a while, and then again come back to that place where we have nowhere to go but to simply let it all go again. We come to the point where we stop struggling against and finally accept ‘what is’; where we reach out to that ‘something’ that is bigger than our small selves and ask it to take over.
All those struggles and the striving, the seeking, the doing and wanting, they all obscure the truth of who we are and limit us because the ego self is trying to desperately hold on to what it perceives reality to be and how it wants life to be.
That’s where our suffering comes from, and what relieves us from it, is surrender.
So okay, all this may sound pretty good, but what does it really mean in practice? How do we move from recognizing the need to activating the process?
Spiritual surrender means consciously opening ourselves to grace . . .
Spiritual surrender means consciously opening ourselves to grace, to become aware of God’s energy within ourselves, to recognize that energy, and to accept it. It involves an attunement to the energetic movement that is sometimes called universal or divine will, the Tao, flow, or, in Sanskrit, shakti. Shakti is the subtle force – we could also call it the cosmic intention – behind the natural world in all of its manifestations. And the simple act of asking for help with the intention of giving yourself over to the care and guidance of your Higher Power initiates the act of surrender.
To fully surrender, we must have faith, or as Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo described it, “The soul’s belief in the Divine’s existence, its wisdom, power, love, and grace.” Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see; it is a state of total confidence and respect for all things based on a certainty that the Universe, the Creator, Source, or however you identify that something higher than yourself – that Higher Power is in control and guarantees the greatest good for all. Sister Joan Chittister tells us that, “An act of faith is the beginning of hope. It casts our own small needs into the arms of a God who has provided for the needs of the universe.”
To fully surrender, we need acceptance, trust, and patience . . .
To fully surrender, we need acceptance, trust, and patience: the patience to allow things to unfold naturally, the trust that everything we need will automatically come our way at the perfect moment. This is not based on a belief that things will work out just the way we hope, but rather a certainty that we will meet the moment when it comes with acceptance. By learning to trust in the unfolding of a Universal plan and in our ability to respond to it, we keep our ego from getting in the way and trying to take back control.
True surrender requires that we set aside time each day for prayer and the contemplation of the Divine to become attuned to it and its plan for us. To recognize our life as spiritual, serving humanity in everything we do and seeing everything as union and communion with the Divine. Meditation is an act of surrender in itself, and the single most powerful tool we have on our spiritual journey. By turning our awareness away from normal activity and into deeper and more quiet levels of the mind, we can reconnect with our true, essential Self.
When we begin to surrender the illusion of control and call forth a sense of trust this does not necessarily imply that things will always work out just the way we want. Rather we realize that we have the capacity to deal with whatever arises. We can trust that our awareness will be able to meet the next moment when it comes, instead of spinning our wheels worrying about the future and acting out of confusion.
The art of surrendering is about forgetting what we think we need.
The art of surrendering is about forgetting what we think we need. It’s about releasing the need to control the outcome or the terms of the solution. Instead, we look for divine guidance and seek what will be the highest good for all. The solution may be wildly different from what we’ve envisioned and may surpass what we believed or thought possible. Surrendering – becoming unattached to the outcome – creates space for creative solutions. What keeps us stuck is often our attachment to an ideal, a plan, a life, or a relationship that we are trying to fit into a specific mold. But we can choose to surrender and allow reality to take on a shape of its own design.
Surrendering enables us to connect fully with life because we are willing to be with everything as it is. We can do this because we understand that, since everything changes, whatever is happening right now, whether difficult or wonderful, will not last. That gives us the courage to be with the hard stuff and the wisdom not to hold onto the highs when they subside. Chittister describes surrender as “the crossover point of life. It distinguishes who I was from who I have become. Life as I had fantasized is over. What is left is the spiritual obligation to accept reality so that the spiritual life can really happen to me.”
Simply following what feels good and right to us, places us in alignment with our enlightenment process. Through acceptance and knowing that all is in divine order, we create more of an opening for the higher energies to move through us. The more we practice acceptance, surrender, and allowing, the easier it gets to move forward.
In the words of Roger Gabriel, to offer everything to the Divine is the first and final step to letting go of the old and entering into spiritual awareness. Whatever we need on our spiritual journey isn’t given in return for our surrender, it’s received by us as a gift of Spirit. It’s received by our ability to attune with our own higher Self, and this ability develops with surrender, love, and devotion. When we truly surrender to any aspect of the Divine we are really surrendering to our own divinity in another disguise. At this highest level, help doesn’t come from outside but from within our own being. The work is always internal; as Christ said, “Know thy self.”
Complete surrender is the final fulfillment of our spiritual life.
Complete surrender is the final fulfillment of our spiritual life. It isn’t about resignation, submission, or giving anything up. We don’t have to leave our families, quit our jobs, give away our possessions, or live in a monastery. Surrender isn’t about doing, it’s about being. Allowing the truth, beauty, purity, and goodness that is and always has been you, to flow effortlessly through you and radiate out into the world.
Going back to my letter of a few years ago, I concluded with the following statement:
A part of my personal ministry is to continue to deepen my own understanding of what it means to be a Divine Being of Light. It is important for me to explore all the ways I separate myself from divinity, and to be constant in my striving to achieve unity with the Divine.
I thought my decision this last week was giving up, but I see now that I am learning the true meaning of giving in – if I will let myself be intentional about it and open up to the learning instead of closing up to the difficulty and sometimes seeming uselessness of the process.
I am still striving to meet this goal, but I do believe I am a little closer than before.
In closing I’d like to offer you this short, sweet prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you,
all things are passing;
Patient endurance attains all things:
One whom God possesses wants nothing
for God alone suffices.
And so it is.
Thank you. Have a wonderful day.
About Rev. Chris Kell
Rev. Chris Kell is an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister, an ordained graduate of One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, a graduate of the Priestess Emergence Process, and a Certified Life Success Consultant. She has a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with concentrations in Women’s Studies and Small Group Communication, and post-graduate studies in Feminine Spirituality. Rev. Chris has a deep appreciation for the aspirations of the human spirit. She has been fortunate in discovering how nurturing and supportive a positive environment can be, how it encourages spiritual strength and expands the possibilities for living a good life. Her goal is to be a catalyst for others in envisioning and discovering for themselves a spiritually enriched life. She can be reached at Rev.ChristineKell@gmail.com.
“Surrender” written by Michael Gott
“Give Yourself to Love” written by Kate Wolf
This service aired on May 16, 2021