Who likes the “S” word? It lands with a thud: submission. Why does this word make some of us bristle? Ol’ Blue Eyes expresses the natural human condition in his sonorous lines, “I did it my way.”
At many junctures in life, in a thousand different ways, we are each invited to embark on a life-long process of surrender. This is how we partner with God to cultivate our creative gifts. In order to grow into the likeness of the Master Creator, we must yield the I-want-to-do-it-my-way rebellious urge that struggles for dominance.
It is just plain hard. There is little within us that immediately wishes to submit. But Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 offer life-giving insight. Paul begins by calling us to walk in love, and he concludes by asking us to put on the armor of God. Nestled between love and war is submission.
Does this strike you as odd? What does submission have to do with victory against evil?
Satan wages war against our creative expression. A common tactic is to organize childhood wounding that directly attacks our gift. Think of the words spoken over you by influential people in your life. Some are life-giving, but others are deadly. The wounding words that land like a curse leave a mark.
God offers a way to fight back that is counterintuitive to our human expectations: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Most days it feels like the fight is against flesh and blood. Either I’m fighting with myself, or my frustration is focused on another. It is difficult to turn my energies away from people, and instead focus my fight on the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
It’s easier to fight someone I can see rather than someone I can’t. However, it is the unseen enemy who strategizes to attack our identity and our gifting in order to break and shatter who God created us to be.
In our hearts, there are places where these wounds reside, where God’s healing love has not yet reached. These hurts are barriers to walking in the fullness of who God created us to be. Jesus died to fight for our healing, but we have to trust Him enough to open our wounded places to His love.
Jesus waits patiently for us to say, “Come to me, my Savior. I open the door of my heart and give you permission to heal my wounds and make me whole where I have become closed off from the freedom of my creative expression.”
Doesn’t this sound like submission: trusting completely in our God who makes all things new?
I finally decided to pray that prayer myself one day as I needed help with persistent frustrations in my life. I tried everything I could to change myself, but to no avail, so in desperation, I finally surrendered.
When I asked God to show me the source of my pain, I listened quietly for an answer. I was transported in my memory back to my little 8-year old self, desperately needing to stop the sexual abuse that had plagued my childhood.
I saw that God had designed and created me with an astounding strength of will and a powerful determination. I used this strength to make myself a whip woven with cords of anger, rage, intimidation, force, and threat.
The power was my own, not God’s. I made the whip because no one else would protect me. I was fighting a righteous fight — no child should be molested — but I had to rely on myself. I had to use my own strength, powered by anger.
Anger was my go-to.
In my vision during prayer, the Lord came and put His arm around my small shoulders and comforted me. He asked for the whip, but I didn’t want to hand it over. I did not want to be without a weapon against evil.
Then my eyes widened as I saw Jesus making a new whip, just like He did in John chapter 2 when He was going to fight against the merchants in the temple. Jesus was making a whip for me!
I heard God say, “I made you strong so that you can fight against evil. Your fight started very young, and you have been using the whip you made when you were 8-years old, but I would like to give you a new better defense. I am not going to leave you without a whip. May it never be!
“I made you a whip-wielding crusader. I want you to fight for righteousness. But the new whip I am making for you is woven with love and mercy. I want you to be strong and violent against evil but tender and gentle with people’s hearts.”
I received His words with joy. God wants to give me His armor so that I can fight against the powers of this dark world, not against flesh and blood.
Some of us have gone our entire lives fighting a battle with a self-made weapon like I did, a weapon wielded in anger. Maybe you’re fighting a battle right now with a tool you have created and crafted, yet it lacks the strength of Christ.
We are each invited to surrender our pain that we may grow into the likeness of the Master Creator. Our creative gifts need to be redeemed, either from pride and self-sufficiency or from uncertainty and self-doubt. When we let God’s love into the painful stories, He is able to restore our gifts to their unbroken beauty.
This is how we partner with God to cultivate our creative gifts. It is not our own strength, but His. Submission is a small price to pay, wouldn’t you say?