- by Catherine Joy
I Surrender All
I surrender all I surrender all All to Jesus I surrender I surrender all (Israel Houghton)
From my seat at the back of the church, sandwiched between friends, I was aware of people dabbing their eyes and sniffling as the music swelled around us. I did my best to stop my own tears. I wanted to make God happy, I really did. I wanted to serve a bigger purpose. I didn’t want to fight God. I did want to go where he wanted me to go but I wasn’t going to surrender easily.
The words swirled around me, “I surrender all... all to thee my blessed saviour, I surrender all.” I shook my head, trying to clear it. The words seemed so final.
All I wanted for myself, abandoned.
My own needs and wants, obliterated.
“Worldly pleasures all forsaken. Take me Jesus take me now.”
But there were things I wanted to experience. What if I surrendered and ended up in the deepest, darkest corners of a strange country without running water or flushing toilets? What if God asked me to dump Simon? What if he asked me to stay a virgin forever? The battle over my heart continued to rage. And I started to sweat.
Rob, our church pastor, signalled for the singers to pause. The pianist continued to play the simple and emotive chords of the song. He cleared his throat and spoke into the microphone, “I’m sensing God is speaking to one more person tonight... If your heart is pounding and your knees are shaking. God is calling you. Are you going to ignore him or will you step forward? All you need to do is lay your life at the foot of the cross and come to Jesus.. You don’t know what might happen after you leave this building. You might never have the chance to respond to his call again. Don’t leave without giving God your all.”
My heart was pounding. My knees were shaking. God was speaking to me. Pastor Rob said so. I shook my head in one final act of rebellion, I may even have spoken out loud, “Oh crap. It’s me.” The tears started to flow and I stumbled forwards. I stood at the front of the congregation, at the feet of the pastor. I had surrendered. My dreams were metaphorically placed before the simple wooden cross nailed to the wall and burned to dust.
In the next moment I realised that there were two others weeping at my side. I wondered what they were doing there. I was the one with the pounding heart and shaky knees. I was the one who’d fought God and finally agreed to go wherever he sent me. The tears stopped coming and my forehead crinkled. Had he meant me? Wasn’t I the one who was meant to come forward?
What was going on?
Even at eighteen, it crossed my mind that the pastor may have been using a clever strategy to get more people to come forward and sign their lives over to Christ.
Perhaps I was nothing more than a river trout attracted by a glint of light sparkling off the wings of a fake fly? Had I been caught by the silken threads of a fishing line cast across the waters? Another catch to be added to that Sunday tally?
I shrugged off the questions as quickly as they arose. Maybe God was showing off? He’d asked for “one more” to respond and caught three. How could I know what God had intended when he’d whispered in the pastor’s ear, telling him about my pounding heart and shaky knees?
The microphone was passed along the line. In a final act of submission, each of us was expected to answer the question, “Why did you come forward tonight?” My heart thudded so hard I didn’t think I’d be able to speak, but I rehearsed the words in my mind then spoke them aloud, “I can’t fight God anymore. I want to obey him. I want to follow wherever he leads.” Tears spilled down my cheeks. I meant it. I really did. It was much less painful to make this choice than pursue a dark and lonely path into hell. Hook, line and sinker - I surrendered.
Catherine is a teacher, life coach and single mother of four. She loves trying to keep all of those balls in the air but fails spectacularly at times. Perfectionism and people-pleasing seemed to be written into her DNA but she's slowly releasing expectations imposed by others and settling into a more generous view of a loving God at the same time. Catherine's goal is to experience life in lots of different places and to use every wrong turn as an opportunity for learning. She resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Catherine Joy