"Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will."--Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book).
I was at a meeting on Saturday when I heard these words read. It was a brief but electric moment of recognition. Surrender is the proper use of the will.
In this blog entitled "Choosing Hope," I've spent the majority of our time so far on the second word of the title. Once in a while we have glimpsed the nature of choosing, but not often. What does it mean to "choose" hope? What does it mean to choose at all?
My theological formation and perspective are drenched in Lutheran categories and thinking. When I heard the words at the meeting, I thought to myself, "What in the world is Martin Luther doing at this meeting today?"
After all, Luther was one who had real theological issues with the notion of "free" will. He lived in a context where the job of the believer was to elicit God's help in the believer's project of holiness. It was up to the believer to open herself or himself to the wonderful effects of God's grace. The task was to choose a path that would allow Grace to perfect human Nature.
Such nonsense, said Brother Martin. The moment I think I can choose God on my own I will be plunged even deeper into despair. That choice itself will be tainted with self-absorption. And the choice to choose will be tainted with self-absorption. And that choice to choose to choose will be tainted with self-absorption.
It is no wonder that our worship services often begin with the shattering confession that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. The proper use of the will is not to choose God unilaterally. Surrender is the proper use of the will. For that reason, Luther talked often about the "freed" will--our capacity for choosing that has been freed for its proper purpose.
We who are followers of Jesus believe that we are freed for precisely that purpose--to surrender to what Jesus is up in healing this broken world and to allow ourselves to be used as tools in that healing process. I know you might see much of that sort of thing among some Jesus followers, and I'm sorry for that.
My friends in AA remind me and one another of this reality of the freed will over and over. Now, it is not that we do nothing. We can prepare and position ourselves for God to do what needs doing. That is the journey of recovery and the walk of faith. It's not about having the right intellectual contents in my brain. It's all about being in the place where I can most fully surrender to what's wanting to happen in my life.
Brenda and I are in the process of moving. We are both changing jobs. We're not all that clear about the next six months, much less the next six years. We do have a choice in all this. We could be sleepless, anxious, irritable, and controlling. That is, we could work so hard on choosing that we would descend into daily insanity.
I, for one, have my moments in that regard.
Or we can simply put ourselves in the place to do the next right thing, take the next small step, act in ways that make sense for now, and wait to see how things turn out. That perspective produces a sense of adventure, a realistic perspective and some really wonderful surprises. It also makes it possible to sleep much better at night.
I, for one, am so glad to have a partner who knows how to do this well.
Surrender is the proper use of the will. And when we use our wills properly, the product is serenity. There's lots to do in that serene journey. Controlling how life turns out, however, is not on our to do list today.
Choosing hope--the choosing part--is all about surrendering to what needs to happen and working on hope during the course of the journey.