My first memory is of my father. It was a little over a month before my third birthday. He woke me in the middle of the night, with an air of hushed excitement, and carried me across the street to my grandmother’s house, wrapped in my bedspread. Years later, I was able to identify this as the night my little brother Joseph was born.
What a lovely first memory, right? Being carried by my Dad.
It’s the beginning of my story, the first line of my personal narrative. I imagine that early recollections like this tend to become cornerstones of identity in fundamental ways. And I can appreciate how truly fortunate I’ve been from the very start.
It makes me wonder, though: why, for most of my subsequent life, have I so strongly resisted being carried by anyone or anything?
Independent empowerment and individual resourcefulness, the congruity of freedom and personal accountability — these are some of my core values. For sure, I’m also a firm believer in our inter-dependency and our collective responsibility to care for each other and the common good. Still, regarding my own self-reliance, I’m darned uncomfortable with anything other than standing on my own two feet.
This makes Surrender one of the more challenging spiritual ideas for me. It frustrates and irritates me in the way that things do when you just know they contain some essential life-lesson or breakthrough which can only be accessed by confronting your deepest blindspots and hidden avoidance strategies. You know, those. Surrender chafes both as a theological-philosophical concept and as a practice.
As a point of theology, I usually untangle my hangups around “letting go and letting God” by vigorously differentiating the idea from anything like “giving up.” I’ve got to be really really clear about that to which I am surrendering. As long as I specify that surrender is a practice of embracing my own Highest Self, submitting inwardly to the Great Truth Of My Being, faithfully leaping into My Own Ideals and Aspirations… well, then, that’s probably okay.
Surrendering to myself is fine. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to surrender to someone or something else — no way I’m going to relinquish any of my personal power, my creative authority, my hard-won enough-ness!
Which, now that I think about it, probably means that I’ve been side-stepping surrender all along.
In fact, I think I’ve just been tricking myself into an even more vehement self-sufficiency. Because if I’m only willing to surrender to my Higher Self, then that means the first order of business is to get busy polishing and perfecting myself. First, I’ve got to make myself worthy — worthy of my own surrender. Ugh.
New Thought approaches to the Divine can feed this sort of type-A control-freak mind-game.
I am happy to conceive of God as the heart of my own heart — groovy. I can also love God as an abstract Infinity that includes everyone and everything — no problem. But I definitely don’t have to deal with God as anything like a parental figure if I don’t want to. It’s really only on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, maybe Christmas, that I ever really even consider it… And even then, it’s only in a vague, metaphorical way…
This Father’s Day, I’m thinking that maybe I’ve been missing something.
Of course I understand why people are turned off by the idea of a bearded patriarch in the sky — it’s regressive and maybe offensive. The father archetype, whether benevolent or wrathful, is at best loaded and may even seem dangerous. I also get that not everyone had such an excellent Dad as I did, so the idea resonates very differently for each of us.
So let me be very clear — I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with rebelliousness of spirit. We don’t need any outside permission or approval to be our rock-star selves, boldly exercising our powerful, individualized, creative authority. We are here to flex and grow our strengths, gifts, talents, and passions, and the wisdom of our own experience. God as our innermost hearts and God as an incomprehensible Allness are both excellent ways of thinking about it.
AND, at the same time, I’m glimpsing a sweetness that might be available in the idea of God the Father — perhaps a feeling like being carried.
I also think that this sweetness might be the very thing that I ache for when I feel like life is too much and I don’t know if I can muster the strength to handle it anymore on my own. Right now, for instance…
Join us this week for my talk, music by Patty Stephens, and a reading by my handsome husband Travis Chapman. You can access everything online any time from Sunday morning onward — at BOSQUECSL.ORG, VIMEO.COM/BOSQUECSL, and on FACEBOOK.
Be good to each other, friends. XO, Drew
© 2020 Drew Groves