Posted by: Sue Spencer | February 11, 2008

Lenten Intentions – Surrender

As I mentioned a few days ago, my spiritual director invited me to think about one or more specific intentions for Lent, something to guide me through these forty days. As I pondered this, I knew that “giving up,” in the usual sense, was not the point; the community’s Lenten practice is austere enough already. So, what else might I do?

For inspiration, it made sense to turn to the book that has been my Lenten companion for the last five or six years. This is Martin Smith’s book of daily Lenten meditations, A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1991; it’s now been reissued by Seabury). Martin is an Episcopal priest and former brother and superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE). Over the years, I’ve found his Lenten book to be a continuing source of insight and comfort. Even though I’ve read it five times, I always seem to find something new in it.

Opening it this year, I found almost immediately what I was looking for. In the very first meditation, for Ash Wednesday, Martin writes about how Jesus was driven into the desert, “a place of forces that cannot be resisted, flash floods and winds from which there is no escape” (p. 5). In going into the desert, Jesus handed himself over to the Spirit, which, like the wind, blows where it chooses (John 3:8).

Martin continues,

Perhaps this word “surrender” should be enough for my prayer on this Ash Wednesday. Not the surrender of submission to an enemy, but the opposite, the laying down of resistance to the One who loves me infinitely more than I can guess, the One who is more on my side than I am myself. Dwelling on this thought of letting go, and handing myself over to the Spirit, will bring me much closer to the experience of Jesus than the word “discipline”… (p. 5).

This year, I feel drawn to make ‘surrender’ my prayer for Lent. In doing this, it’s important to keep in mind that, for me, surrender is a tricky concept. In my life I have often yielded too quickly when I should have stood up for myself, or engaged in uncritical surrender when I should have asked questions – some of the traps for the Enneagram Nine. I must remember that surrender is different from resignation. Also, that it’s the Heart of Life I’m surrendering to – not another person, not any particular institution, not some notion of “fate.”

For my prayer practice, I’ve posted Martin Smith’s words in several places, including my prie-dieu in chapel, and am using “surrender” (or sometimes “help me surrender”) as a mantra in silent meditation. Saying the mantra while working through a set of wooden prayer beads seems to help me stay centered. A prayer shawl over my shoulders keeps me mindful of “the One who loves me infinitely more than I can guess.”

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