The Common Good

Learning to Surrender

It was my junior year of college. I sat in the balcony of chapel listening to a message and expecting nothing more than the usual chapel routine.

Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/Shutterstock
we need to let go of what we are trying to control and reach for God with open hands. Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/Shutterstock

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My life up until that point had been all about finding control and self-worth, which centered on academics and hard work. Blame my culture or my textbook Type A work patterns, but really the core of the issue was my pride and self-reliance. I wanted (and probably in some ways still want) to control and perfect every aspect of my life. X plus Y equals Z, right? 

So, I sat there completely unaware that it would be a message that I still haven’t forgotten. 

This chapel speaker talked about trying to reach for God. She explained that we are always holding onto things from our past and holding onto things that we desire in our life. Whether it's our sins, bitterness from a painful experience, or trying to control our lives, we are all holding onto something. She proceeded to hold both of her clenched fists out in front of her to show that we need to let go of what we are trying to control and reach for God with open hands. It became clear that we are not able to hold onto God fully while we are still holding onto those things.

Later, I went home on academic break and was sitting near a park when I overheard a very short conversation between a mother and a toddler. As they walked down the sidewalk, the young child sat down on the ground and told her mom, “Carry me!” The mother, in a very calm and nurturing tone, turned and reached out her hand and said, “I’ll hold your hand.” Reluctantly, the young girl stood up and took her mother’s hand, and they continued down the path together.

The image of releasing your clenched fists to reach for the hand of God, who is offering to hold your hand, is the image of surrender that I keep in my mind. I am limited. I am imperfect, and no matter how much planning and hard work I do, I must rely on Christ. This does not mean that I should take myself out of the picture and give up hope, but that I should recognize that my life is not my own.

The metaphor of letting go reminds me of the woman who followed and reached for the robe of Christ in Matthew 5. She believed that if only she touched Christ’s robes, she would be healed. Her faith was what healed her, but she had to let go of her doubt, her pain, and her sorrow to believe. She had to believe in something more than herself and reach out for Christ.

The same is true for the burdens and struggles in our life. We have to let go of things that are holding us back so that we can reach for God. It could be sin, or it could be our desires and wants for our lives. In any case, we cannot sit on the ground holding on to things and just expect Christ to pick us up and carry us through it all. We must let go and reach for Christ. Only then will we begin to understand what it means to really follow and trust Christ.

So I am surrendering! I surrender my doubts and my fears. I surrender the bitterness I have been holding in relationships that is doing nothing more but keeping me from pursuing Christ. I am done trying to control things in my life only to realize that I am not in control. I surrender these because it’s never been in my own strength. I am giving it all up. 

God, help me to let go so that I can reach for Christ. Amen.

Kevin Sakaguchi is the Executive Assistant at Sojourners.

Photo: Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/Shutterstock

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