There’s a certain gratification that comes with knowing we have done all we can do when attempting to accomplish something. This is a large part of why the word “surrender” has such an ugly reputation. Even in victory, the win doesn’t feel quite as good when we aren’t required to try as hard as we can. If the maximum effort ends in failure, we are able to at least learn what we can do better next time.
That being said, there are certain times in life where we need to know when it’s time to throw in the towel. This was a lesson I spent the majority of my adult life learning. An addiction to alcohol nearly ended my life more than once. Even when life appeared ok on the outside, alcohol controlled everything about who I was.
I’d try everything I could to control my drinking. I’ve moved across the country more times than I can count. I was hoping a new atmosphere and different people would be what I needed to freely drink the way I witnessed others enjoy alcohol. There was one problem though. I did my drinking by myself at home. It didn’t matter where I was or who my friends were. I experienced the same results every time. Still, I couldn’t help but try.
More than once I made the decision to drink only on the weekend. I’d have as much alcohol as I could on Friday and Saturday night, knowing I would have to sober up on Sunday. Because of this, I would buy just enough for the two days and promise myself anything left over would be dumped out on Sunday morning. I hate to think about all the money I wasted pouring beer after beer down the sink, just to make a trip to buy more a few hours later.
Keeping my drinking to just the weekend was a great idea. There was just one issue. After the amount of alcohol I would consume in 48 hours, I was unable to function without it on day number three. Even if I managed to go without drinking on Sunday, I was of no value to myself or anyone else. I would end up spending the entire day in bed.
I tried my hardest to sleep, that way I wouldn’t be thinking about drinking. My attitude was horrible. The slightest noise or commotion drove me crazy and sent me into a rage. You can imagine how well that went in a home with two teenage boys and a daughter who was not even a year old. Still, every Thursday, I would tell myself this was going to be the weekend I won.
Everyone Has an Issue
Maybe your issue isn’t alcohol. However, if you are willing, to be honest with yourself, I’m sure there’s something in your life that you could substitute in the story with the same exact ending. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks and regardless of what you try to do, things only seem to be getting worse. Every day you exhaust yourself with a new attempt that ends in defeat.
Some of you reading this may be struggling with a child who is unwilling to follow the direction you try to lead. Every week they’re in some kind of trouble. It seems like all you can do is sit and watch as they drift further and further from the cross. You have handed out severe punishment and consequences for the decisions they make. More hours than you can count have been spent on your knees in prayer. However, every time the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door, you tremble, imagining someone delivering the worst news you’ve ever heard.
Stories of Surrender
There are plenty of passages and stories about surrender throughout the Bible. A simple Google search would lead you to a weekend’s worth of reading. I found one tonight while studying the book of Matthew I had never caught onto before. I had read the parable plenty of times throughout the last five years. Somehow I had never caught on to the message of knowing when to give up.
Chapter 25 of the Gospel of St. Matthew starts with the story of the ten bridesmaids. We’ve all listened to the sermons using this passage as a means of teaching us to be prepared at all times. We’ve also heard the preacher man use this story to teach us a personal relationship with Jesus is something we have to experience on our own. We can’t borrow it from someone else.
I was looking for something specific in Scripture as I sat down to read tonight. I didn’t know what I needed to see, but I knew it was in there. Although I no longer battle with a temptation to drink anymore, I still have issues from time to time. I’m just like everyone else. I won’t go into specifics in this post. I’m just going through something different in this season of life that I didn’t realize I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve been looking for what else it is for me to try. What more can I do to receive the results I am looking for?
The Ten Bridesmaids
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, there are ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and set out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them plan ahead and bring oil to refill their lamps. The other five get so excited that they neglect to plan ahead. After some kind of a delay in the bridegroom’s journey, the ten women decide a little more beauty sleep wouldn’t hurt, so they lay down to take a nap. I actually just made that up. Scripture says they became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there’s a shout and the women are alerted that he is finally here. As the ladies hurry about to make sure they are ready, the five who didn’t plan ahead realize their lamps have run out of oil. They ask the other women if they have any they can spare, but there is no extra oil to be given away. In one last attempt to do all that they can, the five unprepared women head off in the opposite direction to buy more oil.
While they are on the way to refill their lamps, the bridegroom arrives and takes the five women who are still waiting for the wedding banquet. When the others are finally able to return with their lamps shining bright, they cry out to the bridegroom to be let into the festivities. He tells them he doesn’t know who they are and refuses to allow them entry into the banquet.
I need to repeat that one more time. He tells them he doesn’t know who they are. His response isn’t “you weren’t prepared.” He doesn’t ask them why they didn’t bring additional oil for the lamps. The amount of time it took them to go buy the oil and return never comes up.
This left me asking a question. What would have happened if the women hadn’t tried so hard? How could the story of ended if these women would have just thrown in the towel? Why couldn’t they have simply told him, “We messed up. We were so excited that we didn’t think to bring extra oil. Is it ok if we just follow the women we came with who have a light? It’s dark out. I can’t find my way without you. I surrender.” If nothing else, it would have given the bridegroom a reason to ask them questions. He would have had the opportunity to get to know them.
What is the lamp in your life? What is it you need to say, “Hey Jesus, this thing isn’t working because I didn’t think things through. It’s dark and I can’t find my way out of the mess. I need you to guide me with your light. I surrender.”