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Third Spiritual Step: Surrender
After we release, we need to surrender. But what's the difference between the two?
Once we Release, we naturally attain the next level: That of Surrender.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between release and surrender. It’s true that the distinction is subtle, yet it’s markedly there. Releasing is letting go of something outside of God, whereas surrendering is a falling into God.
The soul is in perpetual motion; in the words of St. Caterina of Siena, “if she does not go forward, she turns back.”1 I touched on this briefly when I mentioned how crucial it is to fill our newly-cleared soul space with the light of the Diving Spirit; if we don’t, something else will creep back in, another barrier and block from our surface-selves.
If we don’t replace the negative with the positive, more negative will sneak back in!
These “unclean spirits” dwell within us all as our shadow sides, and they need to be fully exposed to the Light so we can face them, release them, and replace them with good. A little parable describes this in vivid detail:
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Matt 12:43-45).
We avoid this “worse” state by fully surrendering to Divine Will. We need to allow ourselves to accept God’s plan for us, in all its manifestations and blessings. We must remember that all things—all things, no matter how troubling they may initially seem—work for good, for our ultimate blessings and renewal, if we allow the God’s grace to flow through us. When we surrender, we allow all to be well2 within every aspect of our lives. Creative flow blossoms; the spiritual river is unimpeded by litter and debris.
As we grow within the spiritual life, it’s essential to raise our arms in joy and full surrender, and have faith—but what, exactly, do we have faith in? Ourselves, most certainly, but the knowledge of ourselves must be tempered with the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, or we’ll fall back into the demands of the surface-self. The soul is drawn by love, and will conform itself to whatever it is we love the most, mirroring and reflecting the properties of what is loved. By falling in love with the blessings of the Spirit, we reflect those blessings back onto ourselves.
When we’re at the stage of asking, understanding is not yet fully in place, nor is that necessary. We have faith in the goodness of God, even if we don’t quite understand it. As we progress along the spiritual path, our awareness and wisdom begin to blossom.
True faith is conceived within us by the power of the soul’s forward movement as we create spiritual goodness through the impulse of love. In true surrender, we ensure that our soul is drawn to the purest Love—not mercenary emotion, which is based on reward and reciprocation, but love for the sake of love. As Bishop Robert Barron so often quotes, true love is “loving the good of the other as other.” When we release the needs of the surface-self, which judges through a veil of return expectation (“I’ll love you only if you’ll love me”), when we surrender into the pure graces of Divine Will, we envelope ourselves in “love for the good of other as other.” This extends not only to our relationships, both casual and intimate, but also to our love for God.
Fourth century theologian St. Augustine of Hippo spoke of the three powers of the soul: memory, understanding, and will. When we surrender on the purest and deepest level, our eye of understanding is opened and we begin to truly see. Through prayer and asking, we’ve ignited the memory of our spiritual potential. This naturally leads us toward a desire to release every barrier standing in the way between us and divine unity with God. After releasing these blocks, we find ourselves naturally sinking into the act of pure surrender, which is the spiritual filling of our vessels. This deepens our understanding of goodness and love, the two core elements of God. As our wisdom and understanding grow through the re-remembrance of our spiritual selves, we find that our personal will naturally begins to align with Divine Will. We love what God loves—which, simply, is Love itself—and hate what God hates—the opposite of love, which is selfish self-will and sin. We gently tumble into the soul space of our spiritual beinghood, realizing that we truly are made in the image of the Holy Spirit.
The sacred life is like a hot bath; we have to ease into it, slowly at first because the intensity of the water will scald us if we leap in. We have to adjust to the heat, acclimate to the temperature. Once we do, we’re able to sink in and enjoy the luxuriating depths. We completely surrender ourselves to the calm of the water. We let go.
Meister Eckhart once said: “Lord … I am ready for anything you will; only give me the will to want what you will.”
This is the core of surrender, the willingness to release every aspect of ourselves in order to gain the truth of our spiritual beinghood, in perfect alignment with our divine potential. We’re all are born into a state of forgetting, and our memory is reinvigorated only when a pinprick of God’s Truth is allowed to filter through, guided by the release and surrender of our souls, the cleansing of self, the reformation of our spiritual lives in all our divinely-given potential. The act of surrender helps us to align the three powers of our soul, reinvigorating our spiritual memory so we can embrace God’s presence and blessings. This helps us to understand greater spiritual depths and attain a larger range of personal freedom and growth, which naturally leads to Divine Alignment.
In a nutshell:
Surrender is a dynamic combination of release and trust, emptying and filling. Once we’ve released our useless stuff, we fill our newly-created soul space with the positive light of God. “Let those who have ears, hear” Jesus tells us. To Hear on this intuitive level requires a complete surrender of self, a trust in the path of God’s glorious will.
“Lord, I don’t know what to ask of you, but You know what I need. You love me better than I know how to love myself. Father, give to Your child that which he himself doesn’t know how to ask … Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me.” (Francois Fenelon, 17th century French theologian)
“The soul cannot but move: If she does not go forward, she turns back.” (St. Caterina of Siena, 14th century Italian mystic)
“The soul cannot live without love. She always wants to love something because love is the stuff she is made of.” (St. Caterina of Siena)
“Lord … I am ready for anything you will; only give me the will to want what you will.” (Meister Eckhart, 14th century German theologian)
St. Caterina of Siena, The Dialogue, 49.
St. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love.