On Easter Sunday as I listened to my pastor’s sermon, I was struck by the words of Jesus in John 1o, declaring his authority to both lay his life down and take it up again. Both the timing and events leading to his death were a choice Jesus made because he rested in the love of His Father. “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:17-19 NLT). “The Son’s death was voluntary. Jesus was not a martyr or a victim. His decision to die was freely given in obedience and intimate relationship with his Father” (NLT Study Bible).
Do we as men play the role of victim because we are not secure in our Father’s love. We think we have no choice, blaming others or the circumstances for our troubles. Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, under the authority of His Father never responded as a victim. He freely choose his Father’s will. While being one and equal with God, the focus of his ministry was to please His Father. “The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing (John 5:19-20 – Message). In wanting to please his Father, Jesus gives us an example of how to navigate our choices in life so we don’t end up playing the victim or martyr.
“We live,” notes Robert Mulholland, ” [in] an objectivizing culture,” in which the world is viewed, “as an object ‘out there’ to be grasped and controlled for our own purposes.” We are the subjects who impose our will upon the world. “Graspers” resist being grasped by God, “manipulators” reject being shaped by God, and “controllers” are not capable of surrendering control to God. “Spiritual formation,” declares Mulholland, “is the great reversal: from being the subject who controls all other things to being a person who is shaped by the presence, purpose and power of God in all things.”
Over the years it has been helpful for me to remember that God is not an object “out there” to be manipulated, nor to think I am in control of my circumstances. Out of fear and insecurity I take over the reigns of my life. The “great reversal” requires the act of abandonment or what the spiritual tradition calls “holy indifference.” This means, “living from a place of interior freedom where one’ s heart is no longer constricted by egotistical demands,” notes Albert Haase. “The great reversal” is a life long struggle for men, who naturally want to control, manipulate and grasp.
Floating is a good analogy for remembering that we are not in control. The more we struggle to maintain control – the more we will struggle and sink to the bottom. Floating requires that we let go and give ourselves over to the flow of the water. We need to trust the buoyance of the water. Likewise, we need to let go and trust God. Remembering the following five truths should help in our contemplation of surrender: 1) Life is hard, 2) You are not that important, 3) Your life is not about you, 4) You are not in control and 5) You are going to die (Rohr). Men, allow these truths to bring you to your knees, while crying, “Lord, have mercy on me.”