Lunch Encounters (of the Spiritual Kind)

Her name is Sabrina.  I don’t even know her last name.  My two children and I were enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, when this attractive, beautifully dressed woman of color entered with her little girl.

Something more than her appearance struck me.  Her girl (perhaps 3 years old) tried desperately to capture her mother’s attention, but to no avail.  “Something is wrong with this picture,” I thought.

Understanding suffering helps to identify it, perhaps.  I recognize it well.  So, I began to pray for an opportunity to speak with this lady, whose daughter was now twirling down the aisle in a ruffled dress.

We finished lunch.  The kids took my keys and headed to the van to read.  My plan was to initiate conversation with this new friend who had spoken to me when I went to the counter.  She liked my “Fruit of the Spirit” bracelet.  I thanked her, and began to listen to her story.

I learned that Sabrina had flown back home to Georgia for a funeral that very day.  One of her parents died years ago.  Now the other was gone, too.  Then she said, “Two weeks ago, I buried my husband.  He committed suicide.”

There was a long silence. Sabrina motioned toward her precious little girl and continued, “She doesn’t even know her daddy’s gone.”

We sat there for what seemed an eternity, saying nothing.

For years I have shared my faith in Christ, and knew countless methods by which to do so.  At that moment I felt compelled to simply tell my story.

Although very different, our stories had one thing in common.  We both realized that sometimes life comes at you. Before you can catch your breath, the wind is knocked out of you.

Sabrina wanted to hear.  So, I shared wave after wave of painful events I experienced as a young person.  That was the hard part.  Then, I was able to share the good news!

One night in my apartment in Athens, Georgia, I gave my life (and all my hurt) to the Lord.  A poem called “Surrender” in a Home Life magazine riveted my heart.  Immediately, it was as if my Heavenly Father whispered, “Baby girl, I know all your hurts. You are trying to be strong.  Just give up.  Rely on Me.  Surrender everything to Me.”

iStock_000025148304XSmallThe flood gates opened!  I got on my knees.  I gave Christ control of my life. Running from God was wearing me out, anyway!  No longer desiring to lead my own life and make poor decisions, I surrendered my past, present, and future to Christ in a radical abandonment of self.

I told Sabrina that although I knew nothing about living the exchanged life with Christ, as Galatians 2:20 offers, this is exactly what occurred.  I have never been the same! There was an unexplainable freedom and joy.  Christ overwhelmed me with His love and peace.

I will never forget the hopelessness in her eyes when she asked, “What does it mean to surrender?”  I told her about God’s love for us through Christ’s death on the cross and His power over death in His resurrection.  To my amazement, I found myself offering my treasured bracelet to Sabrina. Tears filled her eyes as we parted ways.

Sabrina’s question haunted me for days. “What does it mean to surrender?”  At that time, I only understood what it meant to me personally.  It was a radical abandonment of self to Christ.  As I searched Scripture, words like “submit,”  “yield,” and “offer up” ourselves took on deeper meaning.  Ultimately, surrender is the posture of our heart humbled before Christ’s Lordship.

Because Sabrina was experiencing complicated grief, and was still somewhat in shock, I did not expect her to make a decision to follow Christ immediately.  I did, however, envision that she would benefit greatly from our divinely-orchestrated conversation later in her journey.

Although there are many benefits to a “Surrendered life” to Christ, three obvious benefits are:

Healing Begins – We literally change focus from self to Christ, and He sets us free! John Piper says, “The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.  We are all starved for the glory of God, not self.”

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB) encourages to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God… casting all your anxiety (cares) upon Him, because He cares for you.”

In the gospel, we “see and savor the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  This kind of “seeing” is literally the healing of our disordered lives.

Maximizes Study of God’s Word – The attitude and posture of our hearts, a “yieldedness” to Christ through faith, increases our receptivity of God’s Word.  When our hearts are receptive, we gain clearer understanding.

In Romans 12: 1-2, we are encouraged to “Offer yourselves to God” first, that we may be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

Overcomes Deceptive Thinking – Truth always trumps deceptive thinking.  Jesus, in fact, defines reality!  For years I have had a front row seat in the counseling office to witness the truth of God’s Word (when applied to receptive hearts) expose and overcome deceptive thinking.

Submission is a protection against deception. “Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NASB).

Christ transforms people by exposing the blind spots and disconnects in our lives and relationships.  Our goal is not to overcome our issues necessarily, but rather to engage them with a growing knowledge of Christ.  It begins by bowing to Christ’s Lordship.

Although we may never meet again here on this earth, I hope to see Sabrina again one day!  She’ll probably be wearing the bracelet I gave, or should I say, that I “surrendered,” to her.

Question:  How would you have answered Sabrina’s question, “What does it mean to surrender?”   Do you remember your own radical abandonment of “self” to Christ’s Lordship?