My new (used) car has a brand new stereo that the previous owner had installed. It’s pretty sweet – with a CD player, MP3 input, Sir!us capability and a cassette player – oh and a remote control! The guy I bought the car from said he discontinued the Sir!us service before he sold it to me, but it would take a few days before the service ended.
I wasn't going to subscribe to Sir!us so I switched the button to the radio tuner and forgot about it. Last week I bumped a button and discovered that the satellite service was still connected.
I scanned through the stations, found a Catholic network, and listened to a beautiful story about a mother who struggled with a very sick baby who was not expected to live. Understandably heartbroken, she talked with her priest who said, “You have to give this child back to God.” She was shocked. “But God gave her to me! How can I give her up?” The priest explained the importance of surrender and the incredible grace God grants to those who hand their most precious gifts back over to Him.
Of course the story concluded with a healthy child and a happy, blessed mom. I thought it was a great story and went on with my day.
A few days later, I found a set of cassette tapes that my best friend sent me a few years ago. They held a recording of a book on tape she wanted me to listen to. I haven’t had a working cassette player for years so I seized the opportunity to use my shiny new car stereo to finally listen to the book on tape.
The book was about living the big dream God has for your life. Our dreams are God given – to fulfill God’s plan for the world. We must face the obstacles and hardships to achieve our dreams in order to glorify God.
Listening to the tapes I tried to identify my big dream. Is it pursuing photography as a career? I doubt that factors into God’s great plan for the world. (however, this would qualify). I finally determined that my big dream is to be a wife and mother. But the more I thought about it, I couldn't understand why God would give me that dream – and then keep it out of reach for so long. Why would God wait until I’m 38 without even being engaged? How does He expect me to produce children… or even have the energy to adopt?! Why would He bring me SO CLOSE – finding Mr. Burns who is a righteous man of faith, matching me in family values and sense of humor – and still not make it clear that he is or is not the man for me? Isn't it unfair to give me a big dream that I can’t achieve on my own?! How can my dream be something that I need someone else to agree to pursue?!?!?!
Then toward the end of the book, the author reiterates his point that as we overcome the obstacles of the world… just when we can see our dream… almost reach out and touch it… God asks us to give our big dream back. It’s crushing. But almost every time, if you surrender your dream to God – He gives it back – bigger and better than you imagined.
Suddenly I understood. I have to surrender Mr. Burns. I must give him up and ask God to address his heart – to either make it right for a marriage with me – or whatever his heart may be destined for. And either God will give him back to me – even better than I imagined – or He will lead me to the fulfillment of my dream, in a manner I could never perceive on my own.
Tears rolled down my face as I was driving. Okay, God. I’m ready. I will surrender Mr. Burns’ heart. I know You will do what is best for both of us. What is best for Your will.
I have been praying for an unmistakable sign. Now here were two messages. Two messages I wouldn't have even heard if I hadn't totaled my car and bought one with a miracle stereo!!
The next day, I was to join Mr. Burns to attend a funeral. I wasn't sure when I would tell him about the surrender. Then a friend of his met up with us at the funeral and ended up joining us for brunch at a nearby restaurant.
I was a little uncomfortable…I felt I had to put on a little show for his friend while deep in my heart, I was preparing to end our relationship.
When our food arrived, as usual, Mr. Burns and I joined hands and the three of us said grace over our meal. Our friend smiled and said, “You know what is great about your relationship? The two of you can share prayer, and attend Mass together. You’re building your relationship on faith. That’s very important. I wish my wife and I could have had that. We have a great marriage but I always felt that was missing.”
Mr. Burns responded. "I agree. And I've never had this before." He smiled at me. "I was always looking for the wrong women. I didn't know that this is what I really wanted."
That stung a bit. Here I am planning to surrender the man I love – and God plants a big reminder of what is so right in my world. Why would I leave?
Later that night, Mr. Burns and I spent time together, wandering downtown, looking deeply into each other’s eyes, and discussing our relationship and some big concerns. Mr. Burns explained his struggle regarding his discernment about marriage. We had a great talk. I see progress.
So now what? Do I surrender? What is surrender anyway? Does it mean breaking up with a man who declares his love? Or does it mean that you just don’t struggle. You do your best and leave the rest to God.
When asked to surrender her child, a woman doesn't abandon it. She tends to the child's needs and leaves the rest to God.
But then again…
Tonight, in bible study we are exploring the life of Moses. We're at the beginning, in which the mother of Moses – in spite of the edict to kill all the newborn Hebrew boys – hides Moses for three months before she knows, by faith, that she must let him go. She sets him afloat in a basket in the Nile River and lets him go. Complete surrender.
Then God sneaks in blessing upon blessing.
There it is again.
Has God seen my willingness to surrender, and decided to show me what He has in store? Or is He showing me more of my dream? Bringing it close enough to taste and asking me again to surrender?
One friend told me that she sees I have been ready to surrender so many times, and God keeps giving me Mr. Burns back. In her mind, it is proven.
But I still don’t know. I prayed to see progress by the end of September – and here is progress on Mr. Burns' part. And a call to surrender on mine.