Surrendering to Hope

As we turn the corner into a new year, many of us are drawing up some resolutions.  Most resolutions tend to be either about exercise or diet, which may get some traction – for awhile, but usually end up losing out to the strain of three more months of winter.

What is emerging for me this new year is not a resolution but a long-standing invitation:  to surrender.  An invitation to surrender to something deeper, bigger and more abiding than a resolution.   Every religious tradition I know of is rooted in this invitation – to surrender the ego to the soul; to surrender aggrandizement to letting go; to surrender to hope instead of fear. Their narratives, symbols and practices may be different – but the invitations from the various religious traditions to surrender remain remarkably similar.

Surrender is different from capitulation.  A dramatic example of this distinction is what we have heard and seen for the past year in Ukraine.  The Ukrainian people have surrendered to hope and solidarity, which have not only galvanized much of the West, but have been the key factors which have enabled them to refuse to capitulate to Russian brutality.

In our own country, as anger, vitriol and demonizing pick up steam across the airwaves and media platforms, which causes our stomachs to churn and our teeth to clench, the invitation to surrender is urgent, if not necessary.  It is tempting to capitulate to the burgeoning polarization by becoming a snarky participant; but that only adds to the confusion, irritation and verbal violence.

We would do well to continue to learn from the people of Ukraine – and surrender to hope and solidarity.  We can do this by deeper listening – and by claiming even more fiercely, that we are, somehow, in spite of it all, related to one another as fellow human beings.

Years ago I did a lot of white water canoeing.  One thing I learned early on is to avoid getting caught in a hyrdraulic, which happens when the force of plunging water creates an equal force of water pushing back.  Canoes frequently capsize when they hit a hydraulic, throwing paddlers into the water.  If not adequately provisioned with life jackets, the temptation is to fight the opposing waves and get above all the turbulence.  People frequently end up drowning because the water force is just too strong.  Accrued wisdom over the years suggests that when one is caught in a hydraulic, instead of fighting to get on top, to surrender by diving down where one will meet a slower undercurrent, which can then carry a person to calmer waters.

On January 6, the western Christian world will celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  It commemorates the journey three Wise Men took from a foreign country to bring gifts to a new-born child, whom they had heard was the hope for the world.  Theirs was a long journey, full of risks.  Tradition has it that they were led by a star.  When they reached the baby, they surrendered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.    

Most of the hymns and creches suggest a scene of serenity (“all is calm, all is bright”)  But the serenity was surrounded by violence.  King Herod was threatened by the birth of the new-born King, and to erase any possibility of competition he had all new-born baby boys slaughtered (December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents).   The Wise Men, figuring that they would be slain as well, because Herod didn’t want them telling their story to anyone – particularly in their distant country, skipped out on a meeting with Herod and went home by another way.

They didn’t capitulate to Herod.  But they did surrender to what they saw when they left their gifts.  They saw hope bathed in light – centered in an on an infant.  It was a hope that they couldn’t unsee, a hope which transformed their lives.  In The Journey of the Magi, poet T.S. Eliot describes their return:  “We returned t our places, these Kingdoms/ But no longer at ease here/in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.”

They surrendered to a new life.  It wasn’t easy for them.  But it led to a deeper, bigger, and more abiding life  than the one they left. 

Happy new year.

 

 

 

Scams: Preying on Vulnerability and Violating Trust

I fell for a scam last week.  My computer froze, a pop up alarm appeared and said needed to call Microsoft immediately to protect all that was stored on my desktop, lest foreign hackers steal my data, documents and identity.  The Microsoft number was prominently...

Easter: Breaking Through a Contraining System

He broke out.  He got up.  In faith Christians proclaim that Jesus rose from the grave:  Alleluia!  Christ is Risen.  What follows are hymns of praise, expressions of joy, a profusion of flowers – all offered to gatherings that are double the size of a normal Sunday...

Ep 11 – “Passion and Patience” with The Rev. Dr. Amy Peeler

Amy shares about her journey of faith, path to ordination as an Episcopal priest, passion for and vocation of studying scripture, and the blessings and challenges she has experienced along the way.

Fake News, Misinformation, and Truth

When I arrived in Japan in late August, 1973, for a two year fellowship, the country was preparing to honor the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo earthquake, which upended the city for four minutes on September 1, 1923.  140,000 people were killed, many by the 7.9...

Reflections on Christian Nationalism

“The opposite of faith is not doubt”, a wise mentor once said to me, recalling a line from Christian writer Anne Lamott; “the opposite of faith is certainty.”  Religious claims of certainty have been surging on public platforms and in various political expressions. ...

Fighting Insults and Condemnation with the Power of Love

We were at the breakfast table.  My daughter, then about a year and a half, was in her highchair, scrambled eggs on the tray in front of her.  With an impish grin, she threw some of her meal on the floor.  “Don’t do that,” I said in a rather stern tone.  With an even...

Contrasting Interpretations of Discipline

“We will not allow for a policy of ‘anything goes’”.  So said the Chair of a plenary meeting of Anglican bishops in 2008.  There were about seven hundred bishops from around the world attending the once every decade gathering in Canterbury, England.  The plenary took...

Selling the Soul to the Ego

I don’t know people who have literally sold their soul, a metaphor that goes back centuries, but there are many of us who have abandoned, ignored, forgotten or dismissed the very concept of soul.  There are ancient and medieval legendary characters — Theophilus, a...

What Do The Risks of Aleksei Navalny and Jesus Say to Us?

When Aleksei Navalny returned to Russia from Germany in January 2021 after recovering from being poisoned, prison was certain and death was likely.   Navalny died on Friday, February 16 at the IK-3 Penal Colony, located 1200 miles northeast of Moscow in the arctic...

Aging, the Election and a Pathway Through the Chaos

Are Joe Biden and Donald Trump too old to be President?  This question is getting a lot of attention, with no end of commentary.  Assessments are being made as to each candidate’s physical stamina, mental acuity, and psychological health.  Recommendations have been...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!