December 28, 2020
By Gina Padilla
Several weeks ago, when given a prompt to write a reflection on this past year, I was excited about the challenge. Three weeks and thousands of words later, I was nowhere close to stringing anything coherent together discussing the blessings and burdens of 2020. So much happened this year and I couldn’t focus on what God wanted me to say.
Then a story from Jeremy Camp’s book, “I Still Believe: A Memoir” came to my mind. I had read this book early in the year, and one part that struck me was a story about his second wife, Adrienne. Adrienne was pregnant and speaking to a friend who was asking for prayers for the son of a pastor who was in a horrible car accident. The friend told Adrienne that she hoped the Lord wouldn’t test her faith by the loss of a child. Adrienne thought about that comment and while praying told the Lord she would never want to put limitations on what He could do in her life and whatever He wanted her to walk through she would gladly go through for Him. The day after she prayed this, she found out that she had lost her baby. (There is much more to the story and I urge you to read the book.)
Throughout the year, I thought about Adrienne’s story, admiring her faith and bravery. I don’t believe for a second that God took her baby because she prayed that prayer; death is a consequence of our fallen world. But I believe that since she opened herself up to God, He was able to use her pain to deepen her relationship with Him. As much as I admired her prayer, I have been afraid to pray a prayer like that. I pray safe little prayers. I don’t surrender my life completely to God because I have an irrational fear that God will send me on a journey I haven’t planned. I’ve planned a nice, safe life with no pain, no trials and no suffering. This hasn’t worked out yet, but I’m still hoping!
I’m working on following God’s will for my life, but I’m constantly wrestling with God and putting my fear ahead of Him. As I thought about wrestling with God, I was reminded of a radio ad for a play performed back in the early ‘80s: “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God.” As a kid, this ad always made me chuckle because I conjured up an image of a stupid little stick-figure getting crushed by a huge boxing glove. Forty years later, I never imagined that stupid little stick-figure would be me!
Although God has thrown some power punches, He often uses the “rope-a-dope” technique and lets me tire myself out. There are times I take a breather, hanging on to the ropes, trying not to fall, but then I jump back in the ring grabbing things from God trying to “control” them. I know if I would just fall on the mat and surrender, this would be a lot easier for me, but fear ignites my stubbornness. I often think of Jacob, who physically wrestled with God all night (Genesis 32:22-32). When I originally read that story, I thought Jacob was incredibly stupid, but now I kind of feel his pain.
Pondering this the other day, I was drawn to Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God.” (NIV). I happened to be reading it in a different version and the verse practically jumped off the page.
“Stop your fighting and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10 CSB
I had never seen that translation before. I had always seen “Be still.” I read it over and over. I looked up the word “still” in the concordance found the transliterated word from Hebrew is “raphah” which means to sink down, relax, let drop, abandon or forsake. In other words – surrender. In that moment the verse had a whole different meaning than I ever considered before.
I’ve come to realize that surrendering to God’s will doesn’t mean suddenly opening yourself up to horrible suffering. The suffering is going to happen anyway. Surrendering to God means you let Him take you where He wants and when there’s suffering, He will be in it with you and use it to restore you in ways you never thought possible. I am still working through my fears of total surrender, but thank God for His kindness and patience.
As 2020 melts into 2021, I will continue to remind myself that I am:
The Student, not the Teacher.
The Clay, not the Potter.
The Subject, not the Sovereign.
The Child, not the Parent.
“Stop your fighting and know that I am God.”(Psalm 46:10 CSB