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What I’m Learning About Submission

This is a very ironic post to write.

First of all, because it’s very late – and the reason why has a lot to do with the subject of this post. (We’ll get to that soon).

Secondly because, even though it’s late, we’re still somewhat close to Independence Day. And I don’t usually think of submission and independence as topics that go together very well.

They seem almost opposites of each other. Either we’re independent; free, unchained, and in charge of ourselves. Or we’re submissive; meek, obedient, and willing to let others direct our steps. How can we be both? Is that even possible?

I think there’s a careful balance to find between the two. Too much of either one can lead to harmful choices and relationships. But when it comes to our relationship with God, I’ve been finding that submission is a bit more important than in other aspects of our lives.

Is it easy? Not at all. Personally, I’m still far from doing it well. But there’s only so much we can do on our own – and none of it is what matters most. When it comes to the truly important things in life, and beyond, submission is crucial.

I say this as someone who does struggle greatly with submission. Funny enough, I’m usually better about listening to and following the instructions of other people around me. I don’t like to rock the boat or speak up about something unless I have to. But when it comes to God, I find myself pushing back against His direction far too often.

How does this make any sense? Somehow I’m content to follow the directions of imperfect humans, but get anxious or irritated when directed along God’s perfect plans? I’m slowly working to improve at listening to Him, but far too often my nature is to fight back. To ignore what I can hear Him saying. Honestly, to disobey.

I’m not proud of it. At all. But God has been so gracious to continue to speak to me, to reach out to me, and to teach me – even after I’ve ignored or run away from Him. Every time I’m convinced I’ve messed up so badly that He’s given up on me and must not even want to think of me any more, some direction or event comes along that’s obviously from Him.

It blows me away every time. And I really wish I’d learn my lesson already, and that He wouldn’t have to continue teaching me submission over and over again…but I’m so thankful that He does. His patience is far greater than mine. What a wonderful blessing.

And to go back to the reason behind this post’s delay…God recently gave me another lesson in submitting to and trusting Him – even when what happens is something I don’t want.

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently spent a week at a writing conference in Kansas. Though I admit it was an overwhelming experience, it was also a very good one. The people were so welcoming and friendly, and I felt surprisingly at home with many of them, even though I’d never met them in person before. The sessions were incredibly inspiring and helpful too, as I try to develop a better plan for my writing.

Had my weeks before the conference been quieter, or at least normal, I think I would have had much more energy and mental clarity to give to the conference. As it was, I could tell I wasn’t quite myself. Which was frustrating to me, but God still greatly blessed the time.

Two weeks before the conference, I spent a week pouring myself into a youth church camp (another huge blessing, but not an easy one). And the week in between was spent catching up at home, unpacking and repacking, and resuming a full work schedule. I knew I’d be tired and mentally drained by the time July came, but apparently I still didn’t do as good at taking care of myself as I should have.

The week before the conference I started feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach randomly. It wasn’t consistent or too severe, and it happens somewhat frequently, so I didn’t think much of it. It continued sporadically throughout the conference, several times making me think I was going to pass out. Thankfully, it was always improved the next morning.

But on the last morning of the conference, I woke up feeling worse again, and though I know I unfortunately worried a few people that could tell I was off, I made it through the ending events and through the rest of the day with my family, and was still able to enjoy it. We drove a few hours, then stayed the night in another state, about five hours from home.

Early the next morning I woke up with the worst vertigo I’ve ever had. For most my grown years, I’ve been sensitive to motion, such as carsickness and even sitting on swings or rocking chairs. But thankfully I’d never dealt with dizziness that bad before. The room just spun, to the point where I couldn’t even see what was in front of me. Everything blurred, and I felt like I was twisting and falling, even though I was perfectly still.

I rarely ever get sick unless I actually have the stomach flu or something, but any time I tried to sit up, it made me sick. Lying down on my side, perfectly still, with my eyes closed, was the only way I could manage to soothe the spinning for a while.

There’s probably not a person alive that enjoys being completely helpless. I certainly don’t. Especially away from home, in an unfamiliar place, knowing there was a long drive ahead of us. I was honestly terrified. The only thing I could seem to manage was to pray through it. God heard a lot of desperate, panicked pleas from me that morning.

The huge blessing was that I was with my family. And God had provided for us, obviously knowing what would happen when He led us to that specific hotel, in that specific town, with the specific buildings we needed to get to nearby.

Even something as small as that our rooms were on the first floor, and that mine was at the end of the hallway, next to an exit so that my mom could practically drag me straight from my room to our vehicle. No zombie-stumbling through a lobby with a nausea bag required.

We’d borrowed a small camper, instead of cramming everyone into our normal vehicle (which would have meant no lying down on the drive home). From our hotel, we had a straight route back home, as opposed to one with twists and turns, and busy cities.

God provided.

It was in no way a pleasant trip home, but we made it, and it went far better than it could have. In an interesting twist, I spent Independence Day unable to get out of bed, but I was still able to watch movies and have a lazy day with my boyfriend and family. It took a week of remaining pretty bedridden to be up and productive again, but my sister was thankfully able to fill in with some of my work while I recovered.

Also, thanks to a random (to us, anyway – not to God!) comment from a family member, we realized that the issue was a vestibular migraine – something we hadn’t even considered because we thought migraines meant horrible headaches, and the head pain wasn’t the most painful part until much later. I don’t have a history of migraines, but then I had every symptom, and over the past several weeks, had managed to hit every well-known trigger.

The only real ‘cure’ is rest. And if you’ve been around my blog much, you probably know that I struggle with rest. I don’t like making people take care of me, and I usually feel useless and restless if I can’t do something that actually feels productive to me.

I think God has different ways of getting through to different people. Different methods of reaching them and making them listen when they won’t otherwise. Unfortunately, the method that seems to work best for me is through physical weakness. Because I tend to be stupidly stubborn, as long as I’m physically capable of doing things my own way, I probably will. But when all that’s stripped away, that’s when I finally listen to God and realize that I’m completely helpless without Him.

That’s not to say I never listen to Him unless I’m sick. Thankfully, I’m trying to improve, and God’s been making progress with me. But there are still far too many times that I realize God’s been trying to get my attention, and I didn’t listen until I had nothing else to turn to.

To be honest, this post is difficult to write, because I feel like a hypocrite. Why am I writing all about something I’m still so far from doing well? More often than not, I don’t submit to God like I know I should. But I am working on it, and slowly, more slowly than I’d like, seeing growth in one area at a time. I suspect it will be a lifelong pursuit.

But as hard as it is, I’ve never regretted submitting to God. About anything. Sure, it’s often hard in the moment, or for a while after the fact, but eventually the peace sets in, and I can realize all over again why God’s way truly is the best way.

The best part is I don’t even have to know what God has planned in order to submit to it. In fact, most of the time I have no clue. But I can always trust that it’s the right thing to do, and that in in the end, things will work out better because of it. If nothing else, I’m better because of it. Maybe things don’t work out in any way that I could call good, but I don’t see the full picture, and from the simple act of trusting and believing God, I’m better.

I find a lot of peace and comfort in that assurance.

And that’s what I see God trying to teach me again right now. Through many of the conversations at the camp I recently counseled for, to lessons I’m learning in my relationships with other people, to realizations that occurred at the conference, and definitely in the sick week afterward…I recognize God’s promptings, and I’m trying to not be so stubborn and just listen.

Life – and myself – are so much better when I do.

What are your thoughts about submission? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them so please feel free to let me know in the comments.

He [Jesus] withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
(Luke 22:41-44 NIV)

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