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Love is Surrender

After 40 years as a Christian I continue to learn in many ways. One of the most important of these is what it means to love God and others. Recently I have been looking at love to God as surrender to Him.

Surrender is an easily misunderstood word. The dictionary definition of surrender is “to give oneself up into the power of another.” That doesn’t necessarily sound like a desirable thing to do, but there is a different way of looking at it. According to Dr. Jon Paulien, former professor at Andrews Theological Seminary and current Dean of Loma Linda University faculty of religion, a Christian may look at surrender as a way of “opening a channel of blessing.” God desires to bestow blessings upon us, but our hands are not free to receive the blessings because they are figuratively clutching at worthless things. As we surrender our baubles to Him, God is able to pour out the blessings that He has been so eagerly waiting to bestow upon us. Although the Carpenters were perhaps singing of a different kind of love, they somehow got it right when they crooned, “Love is Surrender.”

One of the first things we Christians say to one another in a difficult situation is to “give it to the Lord.” Recent events in my life have driven me to say to God, “I surrender!” And in return He has been blessing me.

I confess that I am a competitive person. I might be one of the most competitive people that I know. Alzheimer disease runs in my family, and as I have looked for ways to sharpen my mind and avoid getting sick, I discovered competitive mind games. Eventually I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time practicing and learning all the nuances of these games so that I could win at them. I downloaded and studied word lists. I watched videos that show how to win at these games. I got pretty good at some of them, but as always happens with anything competitive, no matter how good you are there is always someone better. I felt driven to learn how to beat them all, and in the process my spiritual life and my family life suffered because I was neglecting God, my dear wife, and my children.

My wife and children repeatedly tried to point out this problem to me, but I had my ready excuse that I needed to avoid getting dementia. I knew that Ellen White condemned games which led to gambling, but I rationalized that as long as I don’t gamble, it would be fine. My family wisely did not argue with me, but they kept praying for me. Then I recently heard a message by Wes Peppers who was speaking at GYC about competitive sports, and I realized that the message was for me too. The spirit of wanting to dominate someone else at anything was not of God, but of Satan. I prayed for God to forgive me for wasting so much time on these games and to cleanse me of the evil desire to dominate others. In answer, He gave me the wonderful gift of surrendering my pride. Whatever the reasons I gave to myself, pride was at the heart of my drive to dominate. I can see it now though I was not able to see it when I felt consumed by the desire to win at Words with Friends, Chess with Friends, and other competitive games.

This is not to say that God does not want us to excel, or that God does not want us to become better, stronger, faster, or smarter. I believe that He does want us to improve our skills. After all, in Ecclesiastes 9:10 he inspired Solomon to write, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” He just does not approve of us wanting to do it by defeating or humiliating anyone. It is rather His plan that I become a better, stronger, faster, and smarter me. More important that any of this is that I become more like Jesus—that I become a more loving me. That takes a daily surrender of self and an infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Now that I have surrendered my pride and my desire to crush other people at competitive games, there are other ways that God can help me grow. I feel that God is now working on my need for certainty and security. After all, God promises to take care of us in every situation. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) has become a precious promise for me: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Our house just got flooded due to heavy rains. Many books, clothes, and electronic devices have been ruined. As I have been going through our house trying to salvage musical instruments, clothes, and precious family photographs, I have peace, faith, and even joy that God has something better in store for us, and we will soon find out what it is. For now it is enough to know that the feeling of certainty and security is just something else I need to surrender as I learn to love God and others more.

Chan Hwang grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He lives with his wife and two youngest daughters in Tacoma, Washington. He and his wife have been married 23 years, and they have four children. Their son is studying biochemistry at University of Washingon. Their eldest daughter is at Andrews University in the Music Pre-medicine Program. Dr. Hwang serves as an elder of the Southcenter Seventh-day Adventist Church in Seattle. His practice is based at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Washington.

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