Sunday, May 05, 2013

That degree of grace…


Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.

Isaac Penington, 1661, in Quaker Faith and Practice 26.70

Surrender. There is that, I think, in the heart of each of us that longs for surrender, try as we may to avoid it. We are taught from an early age that surrender equals defeat, that the valiant never surrender, and so on, but in the hands of the living God surrender is the only valour possible.

In the end, none of us will be able to hold on to our own willing, our own running, our own desiring; and if we reach that last hour trying to do so, what will become of us? But the joy of surrender to the God whose love holds us, and heals us, and sustains us, just as in it all things hold together (Colossians 1.17) will never end, and will flow almost imperceptibly into that Light.

I think that mercy, loving-kindness, can proceed only from surrender. It is only in relinquishing our own clinging, our own self-will, that we can become open enough, small enough before God, to suffer with (which is what the word compassion means) those who are small and helpless, and in need of mercy themselves, and to stand still enough to become places where that healing Light can break into the darkness of pain and loss, at whatever cost to ourselves that may involve.

It is a circular argument. Only by grace can we come to that degree of surrender, that pitch of courage; yet only true surrender is open enough to receive that degree of grace…

(Photo: Bembridge Lifeboat Station, Isle of Wight – Mike Farley)