CONTENT WARNING: RELIGIOUS THEMES
When discussing my faith with like minded individuals, or having a robust discussion with those who are curious and want to philosophise, there is one statement I hear quite often that just doesn't gel with me and my experience of faith.
Surrender to God.
I have never liked that phrase, that idea, that point of scripture. Why should I have to 'surrender'? Am I at war with God? Am I to be His prisoner? A slave?
Of course not! It's a ridiculous concept, as far as I'm concerned.
In the same line, I've never been comfortable with the idea that God has my life all mapped out for me; that He's got some kind of 'perfect plan... a blueprint especially designed for' me. I believe that He is with me as I move through my life, I certainly don't believe He knows exactly what I'm doing or where I'm going. Each moment is a choice that influences the next moment, every small decision we make compounds to form our future. God is beside me when I make my choices, that I believe, but He is not directing each one of them. They are my choices, influenced by a myriad of factors, of which God is only one.
And that brings me to my second issue regarding faith as a 'surrender'. One of the most common phrases attributed to Jesus is that His followers may 'lay their troubles at the foot of the cross'. This is often interpreted as an invitation to pray and ask God and Christ to help us in our times of trouble; prayer can be very comforting for a believer in times of need or struggle, but I have always seen it as simply that: a comfort. I don't believe, for an instant, that God is not with me during my times of trouble, or that He is not willing to help me find a solution, but that is the point: I have to find the solution. God puts mountains in my path, obstacles for me to overcome, to try me and allow me to test my strength and broaden my experience and knowledge. I can pray my little heart out all I like for Him to remove that obstacle, but nothing's going to happen unless I take some action. He might guide me, give me suggestions, or help me find a way around, over or through, but I can put all the troubles I want at the foot of the cross, but God isn't about to make them vanish. That's up to me; to learn what I need to learn from the mountain and then move forward.
Also, that little phrase about putting troubles at the foot of the cross, it's often attributed to Jesus but He never says it directly in the gospels. Commentators such as St. Paul and the Disciples make this claim on behalf of Jesus, and they may have felt that within their beliefs (faith is a personal thing, after all), but it doesn't work for me. If God didn't want me to have any troubles, He wouldn't put the obstacles in my road in the first place, so when I meet them there's no point trying to give them back to Him. If I have troubles, then I can pray and seek comfort (which I do) but I have to take action to solve the problem, rather than sit around and wait for God to solve it.
Jesus said it himself! You will have trouble! It doesn't matter if you believe or not, it doesn't matter where you're from, what you do, who you are or anything else. There are no exceptions: you will have trouble! In the second part of the scripture He speaks of overcoming the world, which I interpret as giving us the tools to overcome our own trouble. From a religious perspective, God may have overcome the troubles of the world, but that doesn't mean they're not there anymore, it just means that we have the tools to see past them, to move ahead and to find our feet again.
So, if I don't see faith as a surrender, what is it to me?
To me, faith is an invitation. Some would agree and say that, yes, God invites us all to His table, but I interpret this differently. I have the free will to choose who I sit with, to choose who I want in my life, and so my faith comes from my belief that God has accepted my invitation to be a part of my life. He's always there, but He's not interventionist. I have had my spiritual experiences, moments where I've felt His presence very strongly, but these are my own experiences which inform my faith, others may see it differently. They may feel a very strong call to a surrender, and that's OK. Your faith is your faith, and my faith is my faith, but don't ask me if I've 'surrendered' to God, because the answer is an emphatic HELL NO! I've given Him an invitation into my life, and we're walking down this path together.
You don't have to like me. I'm not a Facebook post.
Me With No Apologies.