Don't Surrender Control to God
I am doing Exodus 90, and this week, the Exodus 90 guidelines tell us to Surrender Control to God. At some point or another in our faith journey, many of us have heard that phrase in some form or another. The idea is we sit back and let God take over. Exodus 90 is a really good program, and the reflections and guidelines are really good, but frankly, this one is wrong. God is not a puppeteer who is in total control of the actions of a puppet. Rather he is a leader who is leading the follower. A leader wants the follower doing something, but a thing in conformance to the lead, not in opposition to this. The leader is in control of leading and the follower is in control of following. God did not give us free will only so that we could realize that we can’t handle free will and give it back to him that we might become puppets. No, God gave us free will to control our actions, and that our actions would be to give ourselves to him in love.
Now, sometimes it is important to give total control to someone. A violent criminal does need to give total control to the police so he does not hurt someone. A sick man does need to give total control to the surgeon to have his tumor removed.
But these are extreme cases, and not in the normal expectations we have for each other. When I am teaching a woman how to follow in dance, I do two different things with her. The first is I teach her the footwork to the pattern. The other is to teach her to have a rigid arm and weighted leg; this is for her to begin developing connection. In the beginning I have her do one or the other. So I might have her do the pattern, and not worry about the connection. Or I might have her work on the connection and not worry about the pattern. This is because at this point she lacks the ability to control both at the same time.
The connection exercise in particular has a lot to tell us about our relationship with God. The rigid arm and the weighted leg are what I am asking the women to control. By doing this it allows the leader to control the rest of the follower’s movements. In a certain sense she has become a puppet, since I am making her body go places that she is not willing to go. Still, she is not a complete puppet. She has two wills; one which is unconscious, a desire to move as she as always moved, the other a conscious desire to follow the leader. She has two wills in opposition to each other. Because of this, she finds that her movement is clunky and awkward. Still, she has not relinquished her will to the leader. She constantly chooses to deny her unchosen will in favor of the chosen will. Without this act to control at least a part of her body, the lead could not happen.
But as she progresses in learning to dance, she becomes able to link the connection to pattern. The arms and the legs relax and become fluid. The follow becomes more and more faithful, because the follower has a much better understanding of the lead and much better control of her actions. The end result is that follower surrenders herself completely to the leader. She has not surrendered control to the leader, but rather her person. In fact, the more in control she is, the more she can completely she can surrender to the leader. But at the same time, the leader has surrendered himself to the follower. Everything he leads is to make her feel more comfortable and look more beautiful. It is mutual self-surrender based on perfect control.
As we can see in this process, at no point has the follower given control to the leader. Rather, she has chosen control one thing at a given time, and eventually be able to control all aspects of her being. This control though was not for herself, but for the sake of the leader. The best followers are the ones who need a very small lead.
In his 2005 encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI said that Charity was the divine Eros. Eros to the Greeks was a surrender of self to the subject of one’s love through the surrender of control. Charity is the surrender of oneself to the subject of one’s love through complete control. In Eros there is a simple, one time surrender and the self disappears. In Charity there is a complex, ongoing and constant giving and the self grows. Surrendering control of oneself is what the Devil wants of us. He wants us to give up our free will and let him drag us around. But God desires that we learn to control every possible aspect of what we do.
This ability to control ourselves is a gift from God, and we should be aware of this. However, as a gift God has given it to us, and it is not his but ours. As previously mentioned, it exists not so we can give it back to God, but to give ourselves back to God, and that is the difference between Eros and Charity.
Obviously, I know that Exodus 90 is not advocating us to give up our free will. In fact, the entire program is designed so that we can learn to control every aspect of our lives that we may follow God. I highly recommend it. But as a dancer I just find this guideline to be poorly written and in opposition to the entire program. It should read “surrender to God” or “surrender to the lead of God.”