Surrender And Surrender Again

I’ve grown accustomed to this sanctuary. I come here when Kerri has meetings in the church. It is quiet. As I sit here alone, I easily become quiet. The evening sun pours through the stained glass, the symbols shimmer.

When I met Kerri I told her that, if we were going to have a relationship, she needed to understand two things about me: I don’t sing and I don’t pray. I imagine that was stark news for a woman who works as a minister of music. I imagine she rolled her eyes. It is a running joke with the folks that know the story of my proclamation that I now sing in the church choir and band. I love to sing. As for the praying, well…, I’ve always been a meditator and that counts. Quiet is a delicious form of prayer. I was hung up on definitions. I talk to the universe all the time. To-mAaa-to, to-Mah-to.

I have, all my life, believed religion most often gets in the way of a true spiritual experience (life). “Prayer” was for me, at the time I met Kerri, a word of religion while “meditation” was a word I associated with a spiritual life. One night, not long after my move, Kerri and I had dinner with Heidi. She asked me about my faith and laughed at my reflections, saying, “You are one of those many-paths-one-mountain guys.” Yes. And, to truly be a many-paths-one-mountain guy, I’ve had to challenge some of my long held defenses, walk into some of my long held prejudices.

Yesterday, Bill said a simple, beautiful thing about faith, grace and spiritual journeys. It reinforced something I have known (for myself) for years. He said, “The problem with religion is it is heavily invested in having answers. It becomes invested in being right (righteousness), being “the way” as if there was only one way. A true spiritual life,” he said, “is about walking into the questions.” Life, the real crackling, shimmering life, is always experienced in the questions. Awe is rarely experienced in something so constructed and contained as an answer.

I brought to the sanctuary an outline/book of a class that I intended to teach years ago but never got around to offering. In the introduction a previous-version-of-me wrote this: The premise is simple and ancient: when you change your story you change your world. All stories of transformation begin with an attempt to control the uncontrollable: transformation in a story happens when the main character surrenders their illusion of control, strips their armor, walks into their fear, and meets their dragon. There are many variations on this theme. What is important to grasp is that empowerment follows surrender….

Were I writing that today I would never use the word “empowerment.It is an overused and abstract word like “presence” and generally misunderstood as something to achieve (or sold as an answer). Power is irrelevant after a dragon is met.

When I met Kerri I was terrified to sing. I’d been shamed more than once for opening my mouth, thus my proclamation. I learned, as I sang the fear from myself, that the only thing that follows surrender is more surrender.

And, in surrender, there is shimmering quiet.

Wave The Card

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Deep in my crow protection charm box, a potent set of crow talisman cards carefully nested in a Wintergreen Altoids tin, created and juiced-up with the magic of Lisa and Avery, is a card that reads, “Wave this card in case of surrender.” It has become my summer action mantra; its power extends beyond crow protection and serves as the north star of my sailing ship. I wave that card regularly, at least once a day. Recently I’ve waved it so often that like a soccer referee I only need to pull it from my pocket and hold it aloft for the universe to see. Red card; I surrender. What is the next best business step: I surrender. What shall I do with my life now: I surrender. What shall we do for dinner: I surrender.

As Alan reminds me (and I often report), there are two different understandings of the word “surrender.” In the west it means to give up. In the east it means to give over. My card definitely refers to the eastern variety. As I stand on my balcony waving my card I am not signaling defeat, rather I am letting go of resistance. I certainly know how to swim upstream. I am well versed in pushing back. I am a master of struggle. The currents are strong and pulling me in an unknown direction; I surrender. I have been paddling against the current for quite a while and although I might have acquired Popeye arms and a clear determination, my canoe remains stationary. What might happen if I allowed the current to carry me? Where might I go if I used my paddle to steer instead of to resist? I surrender; let’s find out.

Since I began waving my surrender card the crows have stopped their assault. I have stopped my assault, too. At lunch Andrew and I talked of walking into discomfort, stepping into the unknown. This is to allow follow the current. We talked of surrendering the need to know. Act and see what happens. The message is clear: there is a vast difference between working with potential and trying to force something into being: the operative phrase, the statement of nature is “to work with.”