About a week ago, I got the best kind of mail: a package, a complete surprise, an incredibly thoughtful gift (one of those “we saw this and thought of you” ones) from dear, faraway friends. It is a book by Nikki McClure—an artist I had actually heard of and many times drooled over. She does amazing papercuts, and her work is described as “strong images of everyday life, each with a powerful verb that inspires to action.” And though I could go on and on and on and on about so many of the stunning pieces in the book, there is one in particular that I just can’t get out of my head these days. It’s titled Surrender.
I admit when I first saw the baby in its mother’s arms linked with the word “surrender,” I just kind of thought, “Huh. I don’t really get it.” But over the next few days, my mind kept drifting back to that image, that word, and I started making some connections. Now that I think about it, as we continue to prepare for parenthood (is that even possible?), I find countless opportunities for surrender.
Perhaps most obviously, having this child has, does, and will continue to require surrender to God in ways that I had not previously experienced and, frankly, did not imagine. As much as I thought I wanted to be (and, let’s be honest, still do), I was not—am not—in control of anything about this child. I could not even control when—or even if—I was to get pregnant, much less the baby’s health, gender, height, personality, etc., etc., etc., and not to mention the countless, countless things I will no doubt worry about as he or she grows in the womb and in the world. I am day by day gaining a new appreciation for what it means when we say this child does not belong to us (and yet has been given to us to love and nurture and care for). And suddenly the idea of surrender in the sense of yielding to the power, authority, control, and possession of another (God) seems not just inevitable but deeply appealing and life- and freedom-giving.
Surrender comes in other ways too. It had not really sunk in what women meant when they said their bodies were not their own while they were pregnant and breastfeeding. In some ways I have to admit that it has been harder than I thought to share with the wee one. Surrender in the sense of assenting to the loss of control over and even possession of my body has been somewhat disorienting. For an obvious example, most of my life I have focused on trying to lose weight—trying not to worry about gaining weight, knowing, in fact, that I have to gain weight is an adjustment to say the least. I find it hard to remember sometimes that I have to make all kinds of changes (some big, some small). Another example: Baby has made it very clear that I need to not let myself get hungry (when Baby needs to eat, Baby needs to eat NOW !), but even when day after day I throw up for not eating quickly enough, I still find myself reverting to my “old” eating schedule—and usually paying for it. So there’s that kind of surrender too.
And I won’t even pretend to delve into all the ways we will surely learn about surrender once the baby arrives.
The thing that strikes me—perhaps for the first time—as I reflect on surrender, and especially specifically thinking about surrender as it relates to this child, is that I will need to give myself over, that I will need to relinquish control, yield power, devote myself without restraint for the sake of another, but (and here’s the new-to-me part), I actually do not need to surrender forcibly or shamefully; I can surrender willingly and joyfully, even eagerly. What an incredible opportunity to follow the example of Christ, who “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” He surrendered.