Our society dictates that you deserve anything you want. Consumer culture demands that you have to keep getting more and more stuff. If you don’t get your own way then you are a loser. You are owed.
Or as the poet/theologian Morrissey put it,“I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving. England is mine – it owes me a living. But ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye. Ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye.”
How often have you stewed and grieved over an incident when you didn’t get what you wanted. You play over the situation and wished you had done things differently. Or find yourself filled with regret and envious of those who got the very thing you wanted. For many of us life is “simply taking and not giving”.
The purpose of any spiritual discipline (or “soul training”, which I think is a better term), is freedom. Free to become more like Jesus. Liberated to live life in the Kingdom. As Richard Foster writes, “The disciplines are for the purpose of realising a greater good. In and of themselves they are of no value whatever. They have value only as a means of setting us before God so that he can give us the liberation we seek.”
Which brings us to Exercise 3. Remember that these exercises enable us to experience more of God’s Presence and become more like Jesus. Exercise 3 turns the demands of society upside down. Exercise 3 is Submission. Before you click somewhere else in disgust, bear with me on this…
Richard Foster writes:
“Nothing can put people into bondage like religion, and nothing in religion has done more to manipulate and destroy people than a deficient teaching on submission.”
And “[Submission] is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today.”
For more on this by Richard Foster visit p110 of ‘Celebration of Discipline’ here:
Submission is the way of the Cross and it’s the way Jesus lived every day of his life. Submission is praying “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Submission is the way of life for followers of Jesus, for those who live in the Kingdom. Submission is what Dallas Willard calls “abandoning outcomes to God”. Submission is refusing to make things happen, to make people like you, to guarantee success.
When we submit we yield our ‘right’ to get our own way. Jesus yielded his will to God his Father. He yielded his time and energy and ultimately his life for humanity. Richard Foster suggests seven steps to submission:
- Yield to God on a daily basis. Pray ‘your will” not ‘my will’ be done.
- Yield to the Holy Spirit to illuminate scripture. Hear, receive and obey.
- Yield to family. Listen to and share with those closest to you.
- Yield to neighbours and colleagues. Love them in practical ways, perform acts of kindness.
- Yield to the body of Christ, serve where you are able, volunteer and be reliable.
- Yield to the broken and despised, serve the helpless and hopeless
- Yield to the world. Take responsibility for your choices and actions. Live responsibly.
Some practical exercises:
- In the morning submit each aspect of your day to God. Try a prayer of submission like, “Father, into your hands I commit ______”
- Try letting others go first, in discussion, in traffic, in shops…
Finally, healthy submission avoids the following:
- Becoming a Doormat: allowing others to abuse and misuse you.
- Becoming a Pleaser: avoiding conflict by saying, “yes.”
- Becoming a Dependent: avoiding decision-making out of fear of failure.
- Becoming a Manipulator: submitting now to get your own way later.
For more on this, listen to the talk from last Sunday: Experiencing God’s Presence