Surrender is defined as ceasing to resist and submitting to authority. But to me, it’s quitting, simple as that. It’s been a very long road for me to realize the truth about what surrender actually means, and what it looks like in my life. The journey is not over, but it is a little less grueling these days.
Most of my life, I’ve viewed asking for help as the least attractive way to handle a situation. Not very smart, I know. And extremely prideful. Yup, that’s me. And if there was even a CHANCE I might not be able to handle a situation/task/etc, I would just simply not do it. And that grew into either I do it perfect, or I don’t do it.
Pretty high standards I was putting on myself. And yeah, I made myself crazy. Couple my crippling perfectionism with my inability to say no to anyone… Well, at the age of 17, I was already clenching my teeth to the point of cracking. And it didn’t stop there. In college, sleep was a rarity because I pushed myself to work 2-3 jobs while taking a full load of classes, playing in the band and attempting to have a social life.
As I’ve said before, the only way I learn anything is the hard way. I led myself into a pretty insane way of living. But I was past the point of no return. “Backing off” was no longer an option. I had to just keep doing to feel like I mattered and had worth. Sure there would inevitably come a day once every few months where I would just crash and burn and be completely useless. But once that passed, I was back to the grind. This is still a mindset and trend I struggle with today.
Alcoholism & Perfectionism
To be honest, I have no idea if my perfectionism led me to be an alcoholic, or if I’m a perfectionist because I’m an alcoholic. And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. Drinking made my “must do” mentality more manageable, at least in my mind. I think my obsession with running my life my way, or being a perfectionist, was out of control LONG before the drinking was.
But here’s the deal, our culture encourages us to be top performers. To constantly be on the go. To do it yourself without relying on anyone. And I am one who continually rose to that challenge. No matter how much it hurt. Alcohol was my cushion, almost softening the blows of all the stress. It allowed me to breath deeply when I’d gotten to the point of hyperventilating, figuratively speaking. The more I drank, the less I felt life crushing down on me and I was less aware of the ridiculous expectations I’d set for myself continuously not being met.
Time to Face the Music
When alcohol finally had me beat, I went back to the only way of life I knew. The perfectionism. Only this time, without my cushion. I became so anxious and intense, people didn’t like to even be around me. Honestly, I didn’t want to be around me! Nothing could bring me joy. I struggled with sleeping, eating, socializing, sitting still and everything in between. At this point, I could feel myself still not wanting to continue living, a similar feeling I’d had while drinking.
Since I’d ended both romantic and professional relationships there was nothing left for me in California. So I threw in the towel. I moved back home, closer to family and things I knew. Sounds a lot like quitting doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly how I felt.
Moving back in with my parents was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done. At the same time, I got the rude awaken that they had lives without me. What? I wasn’t the center of their world? Sure they loved me a great deal, but their lives had continued while I was away. And they would continue, even though I came home, feeling like my life was over.
I stayed with them for one month. During that time I frantically looked for jobs and places to live. I had a plan in my head and things weren’t lining up. But you can bet I was doing every thing in my power to will it to happen!
After being home a few weeks, I was feeling pretty lonely and desperate to move forward with my life. One Saturday, I was at my parents’ house, alone. They had their own activities going on. All of friends back in California were at an event. One I actually planned on attending before deciding to move. The few friends I had in my hometown (who were speaking to me) were tied up in other affairs that day as well. No one was available to talk or text, or really “be there for me” like I felt I needed right then.
Reaching the Jumping Off Point
At that point, I knew loneliness. Everyone around me was just living their lives and I had NO IDEA how to do that. Alone in that house, I sobbed out of anger and sadness. How had I gotten to this place? I had so much going for me, I was really going to be somebody. And yet, here I am, again. At a place of hopelessness and defeat.
In the living room of my parent’s house, I got down on my knees. I prayed for what felt like the first time. I cried out to God, begging Him to pull me back from the edge. Pleading for more in this life. I told him I was tired. That I didn’t want to do things my way anymore. At that moment I was all in, although I’m not really sure I knew what I was saying. But I was truly ready for a new life.
So that day, August 15, 2009, I surrendered. I ceased resisting Him and was ready to submit to His authority in my life. That day was the first time in my life I remember wanting to truly live differently. Out of the chaos of my own plans and designs and just being a part of this world. Although I was aware there was a long road ahead, I felt lighter. When I stood up from my meltdown and prayer, I knew I could go on and I was ready.
Life After Surrender
Don’t get me wrong, life didn’t magically improve and get easy. I didn’t find a job for a few more months, there were many struggles between me and my family in the weeks and months that followed. I floundered through the next year of my life, not really sure what God really had planned. But I kept my head up and just kept swimming. There were some hard truths I learned about myself along with the loss of relationships and painful encounters that helped me continue to grow and fall deeper in the arms of my God.
He was there for me that hot summer day in my parents’ house when no one else was available and He’s continued to show up for me every day since, I’ve found that I just need to look/listen for Him. Many days, surrendering to His will is definitely not my first instinct and sometimes I don’t do it. I have already shared plenty of stories (and I’m sure, will have more) of times I’ve not surrendered, or ran with my will. But I’ve learned over and over how much better life is when I do things His way… and since that day in 2009, we’ve embarked on a beautiful journey where He continues to allow me to grow.
I’d like to leave you with this. It’s a song I heard a few years ago that describes this time in my life perfectly. I can hardly listen to it without bursting into tears. The message is loud and clear for me: God is not who I thought He was growing up. Surrendering to Him doesn’t look like what I thought it did. It’s not about a bunch of rules to follow. It’s about a real relationship with Him, living in His grace….
The God I Know by Love & The Outcome
What was I waiting for,
I came alive when I let go
All I had was a broken heart,
and He held me in His arms.