“One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:35-37 NLT) If I am honest, loving GOD with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength is a challenge. There are so many distractions, even those tasks I begin with Kingdom intentions, crowding out time and passion with my Father. Recently, I read this excerpt from The Road to Daybreak, by Henri J. M. Nouwen that shed some light for me on the struggle of daily surrender in following Jesus:
"I am growing in the awareness that God wants my whole life, not just a part of it. It is not enough to give up just so much time and attention to God and keep the rest for myself. It is not enough to pray often and deeply and then move from there to my projects.
As I try to understand why I am so restless, anxious and tense, it occurs to me that I have not yet given everything to God. I especially see this in my greediness for time. I am very concerned to have enough hours to develop my ideas, finish my projects, fulfill my desires. Thus, my life is in fact divided into two parts, a part for God and a part for myself. Thus divided, my life cannot be peaceful.
To return to God means to return to God with all that I am and all that I have. I cannot return to God with just half of my being. As I reflected this morning again on the story of the prodigal son and tried to experience myself in the embrace of the father, I suddenly felt a certain resistance to being embraced so fully and so totally. I experienced not only a desire to be embraced, but also a fear of losing my independence. I realized that God's love is a jealous love. God wants not just part of me, but all of me. Only when I surrender myself completely to God's parental love can I expect to be free from endless distractions, ready to hear the Voice of Love, and able to recognize my own unique call.
It is going to be a very long road. Every time I pray I feel the struggle. It is the struggle of letting God be the God of my whole being. It is the struggle to trust that true freedom lies hidden in total surrender to God's love."
While Nouwen describes well the daily challenge of total surrender, it is comforting to remember I am on this journey with the most patient and gracious GOD. Rather than be discouraged by the struggle, I am reminded of the character of the ONE I pursue and that He is my Father:
“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:8-13 NLT)
So, today, I will bow down and ask my Father to reveal to me any area where I am holding on too tight. As He brings anything to mind, I confess it to Him and ask Him to lead me in His ways, rather than mine. And I never forget His Word says He loves me and is right beside me.