My husband, Jerry, loves to go to the dentist. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen, he goes willingly into the office, full of glee, grinning from ear-to-ear. Not me. Not anything close. In fact, not at all. To get me there, it’s almost as if someone has to push me from behind, fighting firmly-planted feet and heels that are digging trenches as I’m forced to go. But when I’m in the chair, I know the fastest way out of there is to open my mouth wide, relax every muscle I can think of, and let it happen. The funniest thing—my dentist always tells me that I’m one of the easiest patients to work on. Little does he know.
Submission. That’s all it is. Letting something happen to you that you would not normally yield to willingly. Like letting the dentist put that medieval tool in your mouth to drill out decay—a horrible thought to shudder at in itself. Or following the not-so-wanted-diet your doctor has prescribed to save your life. Or letting the spouse who wants to plant a kiss on you when you’re not quite finished with the discussion even though they are. That’s what it is to submit.
And what makes submission possible, what is at its root, is trust. You have faith that the dentist is not going to drill through your jawbone, that the doctor is acting in your best interest, and your spouse really does love you, even if in the moment it doesn’t feel like it. Or look like it. One of my biggest struggles though, happens when it comes to submitting to God.
I used to think, whether I realized it or not, that submission to God was a call to action. Pulling myself up by the proverbial bootstraps, ready to fight the fight, right the wrong, fixing anything and everything, whether it was in my heart or in someone else’s, I was there, willing myself into whatever I felt God had called me. If the Scripture said, which it does, to “Pray without ceasing,” then by jiggy, I set myself to do that. Fueled by my own initiative, I took off with flying colors only to find I had sputtered to a stop right after I had started.
But when I thought to ask the Lord to do that work in me, I was surprised to find my thoughts turning heavenward in prayer and that God’s Holy Spirit within me was indeed “praying without ceasing.” We can do nothing on our own. We can do nothing without Jesus living in our hearts. In our own strength even the most seemingly unselfish act, the most wonderful good deed, can often be found to be rooted in self.
Over and over in Scripture, the Lord tells us to humble ourselves. Not to make us feel “less than,” but only to help us. Like a little child clutching a broken toy but refusing to let it go so it can be fixed, we hold on to the fragmented pieces of our lives instead of humbling ourselves and letting God take over. Submission.
God gives us so many promises of hope and of grace.
Whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:4
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
When we get to the point where we lay down our swords and shields and give up into His mighty arms, we find peace. His peace. And a glimmer of what’s to come. A glimpse of Heaven.
Kimberly Bryant-Palmer is the author of the children’s chapter book Mr. Zip and The Capital Z.