I know this sounds like a paradox—the joy of surrendering. But I swear by it. I recently experienced the overwhelming joy that comes from surrendering to an unfavorable situation and want to share my story with you.
I don’t easily surrender or let up. I have strong preferences for where I live, what I do for a living, who my friends are, so on and so forth. For the most part, this is incredibly empowering because I set goals and through hard work, can usually achieve them. But a large part of life consists of situations we simply cannot control. We encounter unexpected traffic jams on the way to important events, loved ones pass away, we are born with conditions we didn’t choose for ourselves.
I’m a minister who is ordained into the United Methodist denomination, one of the few denominations that practice an itinerant system, where we are sent by the Bishop and the Bishop’s cabinet. Thus, we are not hired by particular congregations, we are sent to them.
In a couple of previous posts, here and here, I shared about how I was appointed to a church in San Diego, thereby sending me away from my family, friends and the area I had grown up in. Of course by becoming a United Methodist minister, I knew what I was getting into but there was certainly a cognitive dissonance about the future implications of my profession.
In short, it was really difficult for me to move to San Diego and it didn’t get any easier as the months passed. I feel somewhat embarrassed for sharing how miserable I felt in San Diego because it’s considered such a desirable location but that doesn’t mean much to me when I’m far from family and friends—the latter two are incredibly important to me, especially now that I have a child. I needed my village to raise my kid but I was plucked from my village and sent to a people and a town whom I had no connection to. Luckily, my sister-in-law and her husband had just moved to San Diego but beside them, we didn’t know anybody else.
To make matters worse, the parsonage was in really bad shape when we moved in and was completely misaligned from my aesthetic. I was hoping if I was moving to a city I didn’t want to live in, then at the very least, our home could be beautiful. It wasn’t and though I’ve gone through great pains to redesign it, it’s still not my ideal kind of home. It’s located on a busy street, it’s poorly insulated so it retains the cold during the winter time and retains heat during the hot summer time. I could go on but I won’t because this post is about something different.
For several months, I resisted being here. I looked up homes in the LA area on craigslist, I muttered, “I don’t want to be here” repeatedly on my way to work and I visited my parents as much as I could.
Sometime between my lowest point and now, I read the words of Eckhart Tolle in one of his books. It was something like, if you don’t like a situation, you only have two options: change it and if you can’t change it, surrender to it. All else is madness.
Well, I did in fact, try to change my situation but they all led to dead ends. So then, I finally gave up, opened my arms like the woman on the top photo and surrendered to the situation. Not really knowing what that meant or how to do it, I just physically showed the universe that I was letting go and accepting this new place, this new home, this new city, this new situation.
And the craziest things started happening. I found a beautiful walking trail right in front of my house (I don’t really like working out but I LOVE going on long walks and the lack of nearby trails had been one of my biggest complaints), I had the most soul-nourishing conversations with my coworkers and congregants, I had an even greater-than-my-already-great appreciation for my son’s preschool, the orange tree in our backyard began blooming, creating the most delicious fragrance, and I discovered the best gooey cinnamon roll in the entire world a quarter of a mile from my house.
In short, after I surrendered to this situation, I started to see the millions of gifts that were always right under my nose but blinded myself to because I was so closed off.
This doesn’t mean we can’t have preferences. What it does mean is that when our lives don’t pan out the way we prefer and we can’t change it for the time being, other opportunities and paths will open up for us if we would simply open our arms and receive the abundance that is awaiting us.
I know I won’t be here forever. And I do have a strong sense that we will eventually move back to the LA area, whether that’s in 2 or 20 years. I also know that when we do, I’ll miss this town, the people and my church like crazy. So now, I can enjoy it while it lasts.
I now want to turn it to you, readers, to reflect on the areas of your lives you need to surrender to. You may be resisting certain people, events or situations forcefully but that resistance is only leading to more resentment and dissatisfaction. If you can’t change your situation at the current moment, try letting go a bit and accepting the situation. Notice how everything shifts afterwards. See and receive all the beauty, love and possibility that opens up to you.