This week I am diving into my negative reaction to the concept of surrendering control to a higher power. I am pretty sure this is a typical, prideful response that all arrogant members of God’s family experience, but I wanted to really examine this concept and see what I come up with.
First and foremost, this is not a Christian concept alone. The idea of giving control over to a higher power has been around for a very long time. Almost every religion and every school of philosophy has had to deal with this issue. The question is why?
Seems that the concept of accepting a belief in an entity that has some influence over your circumstances is what sparks this consideration. If you are going to accept there is a God, then you really have to figure out just how much meddling and/or intervention that God does in your life. Taking that even further, you have to really ponder just how much control you really do have in your life when you subscribe more and more power to the higher power.
One of the core issues in any religious discussion is on this subject of determinism. How much of your life is pre-determined? How much of your future has already been decided? This is not a black and white consideration. Varying degrees of control can be ascribed in many traditions. I have heard what has been called, “the Lazy Argument.” This is the concept that everything is determined and that no choice you make has any bearing on the outcome. This is a belief common in some philosophies and religions. I reel in shock at this extreme thinking, as autonomy and agency are at my core. However, this is common and so we must recognize that many people believe this way. The idea is that you need to learn to surrender to God, because quite literally, resistance is futile. This is the absolute determinist way of thinking.
The stoics found a happy medium. They had the fates to contend with. In ancient thinking, there was the concept of fates. In some mythology these fates are actually Gods themselves, making the decision on the trajectory of all existence. Can they be influenced? Can they be swayed? The stoics argued the concept that cause and effect are still very much part of life, even with pre-determined fate. There is always a long chain of events that occur due to cause and effect. We may make decisions that will sway outcomes, and in fact we are obligated to do so. However, there are times when we are pulled in a direction that we may not want to go. That is fate. Surrendering to the higher power in this context has a different implication.
That implication is one of choice. A choice to focus on what you have control over and surrender on what you do not. The AA 12 Steps Program has a well known step. Called Step 3. This is the idea of surrendering control over your life to a higher power. However, this is not all control. This is in line with what is referred to as the Serenity prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.” This seems to be the generally accepted middle ground for believers. Focus on what you can deal with now, today, and let the other things be dealt with by God.
So what this really comes down to is this. Surrendering control over the future and past to another entity and taking direct responsibility over what you can can control in the present. So do not throw up your hands and say “Jesus take the Wheel,” but rather to do the best you can to save yourself and trust the ultimate outcome to God.
When you try to assert too much control in your life, you become pretty miserable. Trying to control every outcome, dealing with every possible scenario. Being frozen in paralysis out of fear of making decisions. Being to afraid of failure to do anything to improve your life. All of these are reasons to surrender control. Basically surrender the things that you really have no control over in the first place. You can become so obsessed with a particular outcome, that you cannot see a better result when it lands in your lap.
This is also a concept in faiths, like Buddhism. Accept and have faith that all is well, with or without my input. That is a mentality that removes your obsession with control over what you cannot control. We should to what we can to influence what is in front of us, but control things? Better to surrender and take what the world gives you.
I think I will take away from this study today, that I can and should surrender to God but still accept responsibility for acting in the present.