The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.
-- William Booth
In August of 1912, more than 150,000 British citizens passed by the casket of William Booth. Those who attended his memorial service numbered 40,000 — including then Queen Mary. Born into obscurity and spending his entire adult life serving those challenged by mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the complexity of issues stemming from poverty, William Booth died a man greatly respected for his faith, putting his faith in action, and undying dedication.
If his name is unfamiliar to you, no doubt you will recognize the organization he founded: The Salvation Army. One hundred years later this world-wide organization is still active, revered, and known for being one of the largest distributors of humanitarian aid.
In the beginning, the Salvation Army was much more a movement, with a quasi-military structure and government but never any weaponry. Officers directed their attentions to the daily well-being of people and evangelizing the poor. Order, respect, deep Christian faith and selfless love provided solid foundations for their efforts.
Surrendering for a man such as William Booth seems incongruous. It evokes a vision of a military officer, walking toward an enemy line waving a white flag. In such a scenario, we imagine him walking in defeat, expecting to be overtaken by the opposition, incarcerated and perhaps brutalized. We envision brokenness. An abrupt end to a campaign. A future filled with uncertainty.
But Booth says something very different. He says that surrender is not about admitting defeat and turning your future over to someone else in response. We live in a society where the pioneer spirit is embraced. We value individualism.
So what does surrendering look like in reality? It’s a topic my dear friend Bebe and I tackled over soup and salad this week. It’s frequently a hard-fought process of accepting situations and circumstances you don’t welcome but greatly impact your life. It’s working through grief and fear, dread and uncertainty, anger and unwelcome inconvenience. It’s a choice you make to let go of old plans, expectations and hopes.
Surrender involves moving forward. It’s taking on a willingness to adjust your life to fit new realities. It’s taking your energy and searching for peace and gratitude, hope and a future with new plans. It’s taking an intellectual knowledge of God and asking Him to enter into your daily life. It’s asking Him to transform old ideas and habits.
Surrendering is agreeing that our life stories will sometimes unfold as we live them. Just because we make plans does not mean that changes to those plans are not going to provide experiences that we value and long for.
Surrender is a step toward God and being part of Him. It’s about a bold consideration that there just may be more ahead for us than what we value and have experienced here.