We sure hope to see you at Hope at Home 2014! Join us September 26-27 in Atlanta for the refreshing and encouragement and help we all need as adoptive and foster parents.
The name of my blog is Journey to Surrender. I’ve been blogging there on how to have a surrendered marriage for almost four years. Yet I never really thought about the origin of the word “surrender” until recently. I have no idea why it took me so long to come around to this discovery.
What do you think of when you hear the word surrender? Do you think of one party being defeated by the other? Do you imagine a total loss? Do you think it means giving up? Maybe you picture a white flag.
Nope. Not even close. At least not in marriage anyway.
Surrender in Marriage
The word surrender actually comes from two Anglo-Norman French words: sur and render. Let's break it down:
1. Sur - a prefix meaning over and above. Think surcharge or surtax. Something you pay over and above regular charges or normal taxes.
2. Render - to give. To hand over. To abandon oneself entirely to.
Put these two together and what do you have? You have the very heart of marital surrender:
To go over and above in giving to your
spouse, including giving yourself.
Surrender in marriage is not giving up. It’s not even giving in. No! Surrender in marriage means giving over. It means holding nothing back when it comes to your relationship with your spouse.
In order to understand what something is, it is sometime helpful to examine the opposite. In marriage, the opposite of surrender is withholding.
Why We Withhold
Withholding in marriage usually takes two basic forms.
The first is withholding when it comes to meeting your spouse’s needs. This is most often out of a fear of lack. “What if I give and give and never get my needs met?” This fear-based withholding generates self-protection, self-promotion and self-centeredness. This can also generate a “give-to-get” attitude; one that gives in order to get something in return. Especially when we are feeling needy ourselves, the idea of giving more generously is typically the furthest thought from our minds.
The second kind of withholding has to do with trying to hide your true self from your spouse. This often also comes out of fear. We fear not being accepted or loved as we are, with our weaknesses and shortcomings. Withholding yourself from your spouse can also come from fear’s evil twin, shame. Shame is a powerful emotion that causes us to hide from others, even from the one we are joined to in marriage.
A One-Flesh Paradigm
In our modern world you often hear the “50-50 marriage” held up as the ideal. Equality and fairness are the measuring sticks of a success relationship, we are told. Such high ideals are hard to argue with, right?
But I’d like to suggest to you that they aren’t really biblical ideals. As is so often the case, the Kingdom’s perspective on marriage is rather upside-down from worldly wisdom.
The truth is that you and your spouse are one. That’s how the Bible describes marriage. If you really believe that you are one with your spouse, then withholding, whether it be in meeting their needs or in revealing your true self, actually makes no sense.
In a one-flesh, surrendered marriage, only a 100-100 approach makes sense, where each of you is all in, with a goal of out-giving, out-serving and out-loving each other. When you fail to meet your spouse’s needs, you are actually hurting yourself at the same time, but when you bless your spouse, you are blessed too! After all, you are one!
The other implication of an “all in” surrendered approach to marriage means a willingness to be naked (emotionally, physically and spiritually) with your spouse. Such nakedness and transparency requires you to let go of fear and shame and to believe in your spouse’s love and good will toward you and be willing to graciously accept the grace they extend to you. Further, you must also be willing to extend grace to your spouse as they struggle to be naked and real before you.
If you want intimacy, in all its forms, you have to be willing to be transparent and real, because fake intimacy is a non-starter. True intimacy requires that you be fully known, and to be fully known, you’ve got to get naked in every sense of the word.
Love Like That
Now to be clear, giving yourself is not losing yourself or denying who you are, but bringing the fullness of who you are into your marriage in order to serve and bless your spouse and strengthen your relationship. Just like Jesus brought the fullness of himself, fully God and fully man, to the cross for our benefit, in order to live in intimacy with us forever:
A surrendered marriage isn’t the easiest or more natural path, but I believe it is the best path for every marriage. I believe it’s the path that God wants to put our marriage on. Ask Him to help you move in that direction. It’s a prayer He longs to answer, because He is very much for your marriage.
I’ll leave with one of my favorite passages of Scripture that I think cuts to the core of a surrendered marriage:
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)