“I give up!”
“I’m waving the white flag!”
“I’m throwing in the towel”
“Just roll over and call it a day, already.”
You know what we’re saying here, right? Surrender! You can just imagine a wild-west bandit being marched down the street by the sheriff, hands up “high to the sky.” Or a Civil War soldier peeping over the edge of a bloody trench with a white hankie tied to his bayonet, hoping for mercy and an escape with his life.
In his book No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda tells his own remarkable story of being one of the very last Japanese-born soldiers to surrender in World War II. Onoda was trained as an intelligence officer and deployed to Lubang Island in the Philippines on December 26, 1944. His orders were to carry out guerilla activities and to hamper the enemy’s efforts in every way possible. And under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life, even though he carried a lethal dagger given to him by his mother for just that very purpose.
When Onoda and his fellow soldiers found a leaflet in October 1945 announcing the end of the war that previous August, they believed it was propaganda and fled deeper into the mountains. From there, they continued their guerilla warfare. Onoda refused to come out of hiding, holding out for a direct order from his commander. Finally, in 1974, Onoda’s former commanding officer was sent by the Japanese government to Lubang to order Onoda to surrender his sword. Onoda—at age 52!—finally came out of the jungle and officially surrendered. Can you imagine? In full dress uniform, no less! Onoda’s adherence to a code of honor kept him rigidly locked in place for nearly 30 years.
Surrender often carries the idea of failure, doesn’t it? Like Onoda, we will hold onto something with a fierce grip until it’s sometimes wrested from us, leaving us feeling bereft of control and personal agency. But in God’s counter-culture Kingdom, surrender is actually a voluntary release of self into Life. It’s the whispered, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” that releases us from our drive to write our own story, our own way. And in that surrender, we find the strength and breath of Life.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
–Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)
ACTION: To what “bayonet” do you need to affix a white flag and say, “I surrender?” Are there things that you are afraid to surrender? Perhaps “codes of honor” that keep you holding onto beliefs and practices that are not life-giving? Tell God about them. What might He be inviting you to surrender today? Take a deep breath…and release.