Anything

anything

I have spent the last 8 weeks on a book study/bible study based on the book “Anything” By Jennie Allen. In general, I tend to have a pretty decent awareness of living in a state of surrender to God. I mean, I have 9 children, I have to live on the edge a little bit, right? But there are always those few things…

She begins by sharing a vision she and her husband shared, and a prayer they prayed. Their vision was to live in radical surrender to God. They wrestled with it for some time and then one evening finally said:

“God we will do anything. Anything.” It didn’t feel fancy. It wasn’t even a big deal. But the prayer held in it a thousand little deaths. In saying anything, it meant we were handing him everything.

One of the things that struck me is that in my life I have not so much uttered a prayer of “anything” as much as “whatever”. And I think there is a subtle difference. “Anything” seems more like a positive movement, an action of giving my life back to God as a gift, where “whatever” feels more like a surrender borne of defeat. Of course, my life was His gift to me to begin with and “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Oswald Chambers.

I was trying to be a limp rag doll in His hands and calling that my version of Mary’s fiat, but what He was asking of my was to be a useful tool for Him. That was my difference between “anything” and “whatever”.

The biggest revelation that I found during this study was how much fear I was harboring towards surrender. Jennie writes, ” I had prayed the prayer of anything as though I were about to launch on the Superman ride at Six Flags, my eyes closed tight and fingernails digging in. I was so afraid.”

What are you most afraid of? What would be the very worst thing that God may allow you to suffer? We all would say his character is loving and good, but do we really trust that he won’t get crazy and dish out the same life he gave Job?

 

One thing that kept coming back to me as I went through this study was one of the first verses I memorized: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans to give you a future and a hope.

And I really, at the core of my being, believe that anything I go through, whether brought into my life by Him or by our broken world, can be used by Him for my good. There have been plenty of rough times: being at the brink of divorce, financial troubles, a house fire, a fatal car accident, a deadly illness, not to mention the daily struggles of dying to self and living for others.  But no matter how painful, how gut wrenching those times were to live through, I can’t bring myself to wish any of them away or regret going through any of them. I came through them changed for the better every single time. Without those, I would not be who I am now.

“Anything” is not just about me being a better person. This study has hit me on other levels.  It has been about drawing closer to God, in a real communicative relationship. I learned to do a better job talking to Him.  I guess the idea of surrendering my self to Him drove me to finally have some more open honest conversations with Him. I’ve prayed all my life, but this last 8 weeks was different. (A mini silent retreat during that time helped a great deal too. Who knew I could pray for two hours straight and love every second of it?)

In “Anything”, Jennie asks a professor how someone can know God. His response was:

He began by listing all the ways we grow or know God: prayer, studying Scripture, church, worship, experiences, suffering, confession, community, and on and on. Then he said, “But obviously each of these is unpredictable . . . many people who study the Bible never find God. Many people who go to church never really know him. The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk… To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.”

But it isn’t just the big things in which we live in a state of risk.  God isn’t calling me (at least right now) to sell all my possessions and run off to Africa. There is risk to be found even in the day to day. Sometimes the risk that is thrust upon us is in small things – a spilled bowl of cereal for example. Control is taken from me in that moment, I risk losing the momentum that I had built towards whatever else I was trying to get done. I risk my vision for that few moments. I know it sounds a little strange, but when you are really tired, momentum is a very important thing. In that moment, it is hard for me to let go and roll with it. I tend to throw a little mini-tantrum first. There are hard lessons in surrender to be learned in small moments.

Like a small child holding a puppy too tightly, God had to pry my fingers off my dreams and goals, tell me to relax a little bit and then He handed them back to let me try holding them more carefully.  At least twice in this study it looked like something I had dared to trust God with was going to be taken completely away. Once when I thought I was pregnant (I’m not.) and would have to give up my (feeble) attempts at running and losing weight. Another time when it looked like our dreams for the future were dashed. Each time I fell apart, and each time I came to a point of surrender, a point where I could trust God for either outcome. There was a rare peace there.

I have so much more to say on this but I hate to promise a series because I’m still not great on the follow through. I’ll try though!

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