What Surrender Looks Like
By Z Zoccolante
In life, surrender is required for our peace.
What I’ve been acknowledging lately is that safety and security is an illusion. We hold onto things because they provide us something we desire, but the truth is that at any moment in time anything could be taken away from us.
The end of my marriage has taught me that anything can happen at any point in time. Against our will. No matter how much we fight for it. It can slip through our fingers. We can’t control anyone but ourselves.
I think of it like our hands grasping onto something, holding it with white knuckles because we are attached, because we are afraid to let it go, because it’s ours (so we think), because we’ve built it or sustained it, because we’ve fought for it or sacrificed, because of so many reasons that are all valid.
But holding white knuckled hurts. It causes stress and strain in the body, the mind, the soul. If things are divinely meant to be there for us they will. If not, the only choice that holds peace is our surrender, to open our hands and allow things to come and go like sand falling on our palms and being sifted through our fingers.
Nothing in this life is really ours to begin with. We have this body, which is given to us as our home. We are blessed to have those who love us, blessed to have jobs, places to live, all these extra things we call a life.
But these are all blessings. These are all gifts. The time I spent with my husband was a huge gift to my life. I remember it, him, us, with gratitude, joy, and love. And I hold it palms open to the reality of what exists now.
I can show up for others I deeply love out of my choice, out of love, without holding a scale to measure whether it’s fair for me. I can simply love with palms open because what is divinely meant for me, God will work it out.
Suffering comes when we try to hold so tightly.
Surrender is peace.
But it feels like this ethereal things that people say, “Oh yeah, just surrender that,” while the whole time you kinda wanna punch them in the face.
Or maybe that’s just me . . .
So at my drug and alcohol rehab, where I work as an intern therapist, I decide I want more wisdom on surrender so I run a group on that topic.
Someone says the room feels stuffy. Great, let’s go walk outside. Pair up. Talk about what surrender means to you and a time when you’ve surrender and a time you haven’t.
Back in the room most of the people define surrender as a giving up. The energy with their words is almost powerless. Huh. My mind spins.
“Ok, so I want everyone to show me what surrender looks like to you. Put your body in a position that feels like surrender to you.”
And they do. “Look around,” I say, “everyone’s in a very different position even though we were all given the same word.”
Everyone looks at everyone. One girl Sasha, who was my partner outside, tells me that her surrender is on her knees, head down, arms at her side, limp. She’s on the floor like this now. People have heads down, sitting in chairs, standing behind chairs, leaning forward in their chairs.
I am the only one who is standing straight up, arms open, my heart exposed. I tell Sasha earlier that this has always felt like surrender to me – having the most vulnerable part of me, my heart, exposed and trusting that God’s got me.
They sit. A thought flashes in my mind.
“How does a flower surrender,” I ask.
“Like this,” Sasha says, and raises her head to the sky. Around the room people think and give different answers. And then, brilliance.
“It surrenders to whatever nature asks of it at the time,” someone says. My heart beats faster. Someone chimes in, “Yeah, like even when it’s growing, even when it’s dying and all the petals are falling off, that’s still surrender.”
Wow, I think. Brilliant!
A flower surrenders nature. Meaning that surrender can look different at all different points in our lives.
Surrender simply means to surrender to whatever the moment is asking you to surrender to. And it can look differently every single time.
I go home that night and have a conversation with a friend that triggers some hurt in me. I go to the grassy knoll with my dog. I find myself, tears in my eyes, on my knees in the green grass, arms limp by my side, head down in front of me. . .
And I think, this is Sasha’s surrender. This is her position of surrender.
And I observe my arms, the way my head tilts, the way it reminds me of sitting this Japanese term called seiza, from Aikido class.
Surrender is whatever is required of us in that moment, and it can look different at any point in time.
It takes me a few days to empty my personal pain points, so that I can hold my hands palms open instead of white knuckled.
And for the first time in maybe all of my life I realize that I can love and you can walk away. And I can love and I can walk away. And everything is perfectly ok. I can love with palm open. I can love vulnerable, with my heart exposed and instead of it feeling powerless (like it used to, like I was giving something away), it can feel like the most powerful thing. It can feel like palms open.
My past husband and I had a pet rat once. They live for about 2 years so I knew it would die sooner than later. I named it Jireh, from Jehovah Jireh, meaning, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Praise be to the Lord.”
We loved this little rat. She was the freakin cutest! And when had to put her to sleep I remembered that she was a gift. She wasn’t mine, his, or ours. She belonged to herself. She was her own. And I sobbed and sobbed when she took her last little breath but this too was surrender.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Praise be to the Lord. And I know . . .
Surrender is palms open. Surrender is whatever is required at that time.