Do we hand ourselves over or do we live by real devotion?
Did you know there is a huge difference between handing yourself over and living a life of devotion? Most of the time, this difference is not visible from the outside.
Plenty of Christian songs talk about the topic. “I give myself to you” – “I surrender” – “I am yours”… beautiful songs. I mean, it is something beautiful. People that truly walk in surrender, in real devotion, are my big heroes to imitate. I want to learn from them, and walk in their footsteps.
I always wanted that. I was always eager, to do what was right and to live a committed life. Toward God – and toward the people I longed to be close to.
However, one night I was walking down the stairs to have some quiet time with God. Suddenly, He was talking to my heart: “Jeanne, real devotion and handing yourself over is not the same thing! I was shocked. I never thought about a difference.
That day, in my time with God, I took a pen, and started to write. Write down that revelation that came to me as simple as that, touching the core of my being.
I realized that in my life, what I was doing was not real devotion. I was handing over my life – to the people I longed to be close to, and to God.
I know that doesn’t sound too bad, handing my life over to God, doesn’t it?
Let me explain:
During that precise moment, while I was convicted from how I dealt with these situations, the pastor had a word for me: “Dios va devolverte tu dignidad” – “God will give you back your dignity”.
So here we are, about 10 years later, when God was talking to me again about that matter.
This time, I understood a much deeper concept of what this meant for my life.
I realized that:
Devotion means that there is passion, identity, security, self-determination, royalty, respectability, freedom. It makes the other person an honorable recipient.
On the other hand, being at the mercy of others comes with powerlessness, worthlessness, lack of identity, victimization while making the other the culprit.
Take a look at some examples of handing myself over:
- Staying with my husband only because the Bible requires it
- Staying at home with my children instead of going to work because I have to
- Having sex with my spouse because this is a duty in marriage
- Being committed to ministry, doing what I am doing because I feel I have to, or because the church has nobody else to do the work.
- Helping out with money for my adult children because I’m afraid they will have too little to live on otherwise
I do not say that these things are wrong to do. These mentioned examples are honorable ways to act. Also, decisions we make in life often come with a commitment required from our part.
However, doing them with the attitude of being at the mercy of others or of God, we miss out on something beautiful because we move in the realm of powerlessness, worthlessness, a lack of identity, victimization and making others the culprit.
I love this famous picture from Rembrandt.
It is the story of the prodigal son.
His older brother had been staying faithfully with his father, working hard. There was certainly a lot to do.
He took his position as a son very seriously. At least that’s what he thought.
In the picture we see him on the right in the red coat. He views this scene pejoratively. We know from the Bible that he was really angry, we also know why:
But the elder brother became angry and deeply resentful and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he said to his father, ‘Look! These many years I have served you, and I have never neglected or disobeyed your command. Yet you have never given me [so much as] a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this [other] son of yours arrived, who has devoured your estate with immoral women, you slaughtered that fattened calf for him!’
I understand him! If I were him, I would be angry too.
The problem is, he did not live in real devotion. He neither had any idea of what his real position was, nor did he know the heart of his father. He handed himself over, thinking that he was supposed to do it like that.
- – You have never given me…
- – These many years I have served you…
- – I have never neglected or disobeyed your command! “
Doesn’t that sound familiar with our own feelings?
It sounds like: “I was at your mercy, worked like a slave and submitted to your orders!”
By the father’s answer, we see that he was not a tyrant. This father did not want this kind of attitude of a slave from his son. He rather longed for real devotion!
The father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
This son was living a “devoted” life – but real devotion does not leave behind a taste of bitterness!
Here’s the difference:
It’s about our inner reality, our attitude. We can give ourselves up, be it to God or a man… because we have to. Because we have no choice. Because we do not have the identity to do anything else. Because we feel that’s what is expected from our family, from our church.
Real devotion, on the other hand, comes with an inner freedom to make decisions. With a gratitude and sovereignty. We have the identity to decide to whom and how much we want to surrender ourselves. And when we do it, we do it out of love.
With what attitude do we take our decisions? When we do it out of real devotion we do it with passion. With our own free decision. Free will included. Our uniqueness included. Joy and enthusiasm included. And it makes the receiver an honorable recipient.
In the next post we will continue to dig into that subject, ending up with some practical steps about how we can live a life of devotion and shed that victim mentality of living at the mercy of others.