Surrender is the safest place to rest, but you can only get there by coming to the end of yourself and letting go.
I am more like Peter than I want to believe, and yet, I wish I could be more like Peter and believe. I have been thinking about the progression of Peter’s walk with Jesus. We first find Simon Peter, in Luke chapter 5, in a fishing boat, having worked all night in his own strength trying to make a catch. He was a fisherman by trade and an expert in his field. On this particular occasion, however, exhausted and his strength depleted, he comes to the end of himself when Jesus tells him to put his net down for a catch. Peter explains to him how he has already spent the whole night trying and coming up with nothing. But there was something about the way Jesus looks at him that convinces him to put his net down for just one more catch… at His word.
At His word, Peter brings in a catch so large and overwhelming that it requires the help of friends to bring it in. He had come to the end of himself and observed what Jesus could do for Him through a simple surrender of his will. With Jesus by his side, He watched the supernatural manifest. Curious, as I am sure he had been praying since his youth about the coming Messiah, he accepts the invitation to follow Jesus. I wonder about the many expectations he must have had swimming around in his head about what leaving all and following Jesus would be like, what it would mean for him personally as well as his family, and how, although he wasn’t sure what this new life would bring, what it meant to accompany the Messiah in establishing His kingdom on earth. And what did it mean to be a fisher of men? He was up for the adventure, however, tainted he was by his own expectations.
As time went on, we find Peter, having walked with Jesus for a while, thinking he may be getting the hang of this supernatural lifestyle. One evening, Jesus goes away to pray alone while the disciples are all out in a boat when a storm hits. They are fearful in the midst of the waves when Jesus appears on the water walking toward them. This time, however, we see a bolder side of Peter. He had been observing Jesus and studying His perfect track record. He gets an idea that if Jesus can walk on water then that probably means he can too. So, he calls out to Jesus in Matthew 14:28-29 (TPT) “Peter shouted out, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!’‘Come and join me,’ Jesus replied. Peter steps out onto the water and begins to walk toward Jesus. But when he realizes how high the waves are, he becomes frightened and starts to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he cries out.”
What you see here is Peter’s impulsive action that leads to the miraculous. He gets outside of his own head for a moment and thinks of only the possibilities until he comes to the end of himself and starts to sink. As long as he is focused on walking toward Jesus, then he walks on the water. It is only when he observes the waves, changing his perspective, and transferring his godly fear of how big God is compared to him, onto the waves and how big they are compared to him, that he begins to sink.
It is not that the waves are bigger than God, rather they possess no hope as they scream their lies of death and destruction. It is a discipline to keep your eyes focused on Jesus, listening to His still, small, voice; a voice so powerful, it doesn’t need to scream to be heard. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father and the infinite possibilities He possesses. He is the Creator of all and all things are in His hands. There is nothing to fear when our fear is grounded in how big He is. It is a matter of perspective.
When we get our eyes off of His bigness, we have only two choices: make ourselves big, or make the situation small. Both of these choices lead to an end. Stripped of all we put our trust in, we realize what it means to be human. On our own, we are merely flesh and blood with all its limitations. When we try and diminish our situations through denial or blame, we succumb to the impulse to hide in our addictions or drown ourselves in pleasure or pain, also leading to the end of ourselves, eventually. The only way to find true freedom is to lose control.
I do love Peter’s spunk, impulsiveness, and tenacity in that he thinks that maybe by watching Jesus and mirroring what He does, he too can get the same results. I believe that Peter thinks if he can walk like Jesus and talk like Jesus, he will eventually have the same manifestations as Jesus. He is still all up in himself, but he is learning. He is a disciple and disciples make mistakes. Mistakes are just proof that you are stepping out and taking risks. In these ways I wish I were more like Peter.
I was way more like this in my youth when I didn’t have so much to lose. Becoming a mother has softened me and made me more cautious, afraid to risk and lose…and experience pain. Although that in itself is an excuse, it has been my mask of protection all these years, as if God was not big enough and He somehow needed my strength to protect my loved ones. There is just so much more to lose when you open your heart to love.
Peter is willing to risk and let it all hang out there and learn from his mistakes. He wrestles out loud and Jesus doesn’t seem to mind Peter’s internal struggle that he wears so openly on the outside. After all, Jesus chose Peter, not the other way around. Jesus knew what He was getting into with a man like Peter. He saw the finished work and any struggle Peter may have had with performance, would be worked out in his journey to the end of himself. In fact, I think it is for this very reason that Jesus brought Peter into His inner, inner circle. Peter had a heart for God however unpolished it was. He was impulsive but he had faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith requires action…not just thoughts. Peter for much of the time acts and thinks later, but you will never accuse him of getting too caught up in his head trying to figure out the right way of doing things or worrying too much about the outcome. No, he acts and then figures it out afterward. He learns from his mistakes as he goes.
I tend to resent people like this because, for some reason, I manage to take it upon myself that it is my responsibility to clean up their mess. Meanwhile, I watch them take huge strides toward their dreams and goals while I stay back trying to make sense of it all. I guess I don’t enjoy the messes of life. I want things to be controlled and polished and predictable. I want to understand. I hear the words “I don’t understand” come out of my mouth often. These words keep me in my head, unlike Peter. After all, Scripture says in Philippians 4:7 that it is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” His peace passes over our understanding…if we will let it.
I am a quote person. I love to meditate on a good quote because they can spark some great conversations, mainly with my Papa God. Millard Fuller, Co-Founder of Habitat for Humanity, says, “It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson adds to that, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” John F. Kennedy is quoted saying, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” Thomas Jefferson, another great man of action, continues, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” I love the advice Vincent Van Gogh gives when he says, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” And lastly, Vaclav Havel speaks on vision. “Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” I hope someday people will be quoting the words from my life that have inspired them to action. But first I need to get out of my own way, come to the end of myself, and lose control.
I think about the difference between the Peter who is walking toward Jesus on the water and the Peter who is filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. When Jesus was captured by the Romans, he denied Christ three times just as Jesus had predicted. Jesus knew that Peter desired to follow Him to the death, but He also knew the frailty of human flesh. He knew Peter needed to come to the end of himself in order to discover the road to what he truly longed for…a life free of himself and the limitations of the flesh. He wanted intimacy with Jesus but didn’t know how to find it until he laid it all down in complete surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until he surrendered to the overtaking of the Holy Spirit that he finally understood what Jesus had been trying to explain all along.
Through His Holy Spirit, we are not walking toward Him; we are walking as one in Him. When we are one with Him, we speak His words and they manifest…as one. Like the mystery of the Trinity, three distinct personalities in One, the miracle of marriage is two becoming one. When we join our marriages with the Holy Spirit, it becomes a chord of three, so powerful it cannot be broken. We are not singular, but rather made of completely different parts, joined, making the oneness so powerfully unique. With the physical act, the gift of marriage, even the very DNA of the couple mesh to become one, as well as in the conception and creation of a child. A child is the fruit of the one flesh of marriage. The point is, God gave us marriage to represent the mystery of the Trinity: the Bride and her Bridegroom, “Christ in us our hope of glory.” They are one. Their very DNA is meshed together and together the miraculous is birthed as they go out and create together. They are no longer singular, although they bring to the table their own unique individuality. When operating by design, there is such a unity, a oneness, that can only be explained through the description of intercourse. Even in intercourse, there are levels of oneness. It is all dependent on the level of surrender of control you are willing to lay down.
When we come to the end of ourselves and hide, it is because that feeling of losing control is so terrifying. We can’t know the outcome. It is so raw, vulnerable, and exposed. Those moments in our lives that are truly miraculous are the moments when we surrender our body and soul and open our spirits to the possibility of losing control. Moments in life such as praying in the Spirit, when you know not what you are praying and yet your spirit is being filled and emptied at the same time, aligning your life to His; being slain in the Spirit and falling under His power; convergence and those moments when you are walking in complete surrender to your purpose and your gifts and talents align with your purpose and destiny; natural childbirth and feeling every contraction as it opens your body to birth a new life; orgasm in intercourse, when a husband and wife bend completely to another, surrendering themselves to the overpowering of the other. These are all moments of complete surrender when control is released and the outcome results in utter bliss.
I love the line in the song You Won’t Relent by Jesus Culture, “You won’t relent until you have it all. My heart is yours.” That sounds like an overpowering orgasmic consummation to me. Our marriages are meant to be a mirror of His affection and passion toward us. We don’t have to look further than The Song of Solomon to see that. All this to say, we were created to lose control. As I said, those moments in our lives when we truly surrender control are the moments that take our breath away. The moments that truly make us feel alive. I want more of those moments, but in order to have them I need to come to the end of myself and stop hiding there.
Unfortunately, I don’t give it up easily. Usually, I am holding on to the end of myself as if it is the only trustworthy path. We hide out there afraid to take the plunge. The unknown is a mystery. Part of me longs to live in the mystery, but the comfortable, controlled side tries to keep my world safe and predictable. One of my favorite songs, Into the Unknown, is from the movie Frozen 2. I particularly love the version sung by Panic at the Disco. It is a song about the battle in the head of surrendering control and stepping into your destiny. The main character, Elsa, spends a lot of energy trying to drown out the voice of “distraction” leading to an adventure that will pull her away from what is comfortable into a path of risk and the unknown. Her question is how do I follow you…into the unknown… and still hold onto control. The answer… you can’t. The path we fear is usually the path leading to where we were meant to live all along. Like Elsa, I too want to align my life with my future self, the self Jesus already sees. But the unknown is…scary.
So why am I writing this and hiding, wrestling at the end of myself? The only answer is self-preservation. I have already taken the plunge and stepped out onto the water, but for some reason, like Peter, I have become paralyzed by the waves. I have shifted my eyes onto my own strength to get me out of a pit that only God can get me out of. I need to just come to the end of myself and stop hiding.
After Jesus is resurrected, in John 21:15-17, He shares an intimate meal with Peter. Peter has been living with the realization that as much as he wanted to follow Jesus to the death, he had denied His Savior when He needed Him most. Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him. It is in the asking that Peter finally realizes the limitations of the flesh and how it is not in him, no matter how hard he tries, to love Jesus the way he wants to. He needs more and knows only Jesus can give him what he truly wants. Interestingly, this intimate moment between Peter and Jesus is shared over a meal of fish, where it all began. Jesus supernaturally provided fish for Peter in the beginning because He knew it would get Peter’s attention. Ultimately, it would lead him down the path to finding what he didn’t know he really needed…to lose control. As much as Peter wanted to be strong and have all the answers, and as much as he was a man of compulsive action because he wanted results, it all came back to surrender. He couldn’t even surrender on his own. He just had to be open to receive.
When the Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost, Peter was a different man. He was no longer dependent on his own strength, efforts, or reason. He was a man overtaken by the love of Jesus. When Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him, Peter knew at that moment, the only way to love Him was to be consumed by Him. God’s love is a consummate love, a love revealed and demonstrated in the one-flesh of a man and wife. It is an overtaking, overpowering, overshadowing love that leaves us out of control and vulnerable to the one who holds it all in place.
Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Like Peter, we need to come to the end of ourselves and stop hiding there, realizing our illusions of control are just that… illusions. Peter started his journey watching what Jesus could do for him. He continued the journey watching what he could do with Jesus. He ended his journey living as one in Jesus, manifesting Him to the watching desperate world. Peter had to get out of his own way and surrender to the One who captured his heart so that Jesus could step inside him and become one with him.
Jesus loves us so intimately, so powerfully, that anything contrary that we may feel is only our own filter or perception. He loved us unto death. There is no greater demonstration of love than a man who lays His life down for another. Ask yourself the same question Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” If the answer is indeed yes, come to the end of yourself and just let go, and let Him overtake you. The sooner you surrender the control and open to Him, as in intercourse, the sooner you step into the miraculous mystery of Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”