Surrendering Isn’t Giving Up

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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At five, my son is quickly learning the ways of the world when it comes to dealing with others. It’s a necessary skill. Maybe the most necessary. He knows that a crying fit will likely get him nothing but a slap on the rear, and he knows he can sweet talk his mother into just about anything he wants. He also knows his father is a much tougher sell. I’m not much on sweet talking. So with me he tends to approach things from a more practical standpoint. “Dad,” he said the other day, “I think I need a knife because you have a knife and I wanna be like you.” So he got a knife. Plastic, of course. But still one that’s worthy of both his father and MacGyver. He’s slick, I tell you. Very. The way to deal with God has come much harder for my son, mostly because he can’t seem to figure out how to get what he wants. I’ve spent the last few weeks as a spectator to this getting-to-know-you process. I’m not butting in. Not yet. Some things are best learned on your own, even when you’re a kid.

It began with a simple bedtime prayer that included a nice balance of thanks for a pleasant day and an even more pleasant meal, followed by petitions for a lost teddy bear and two AA batteries. The batteries, I learned, were for his flashlight, which he needed to find said bear. That was impressive. Even at five, my son knows that God expects us to do our part. Then, just before amen and just after “In Jesus Christ Holy God’s name,” he said this: “And God, please let tomorrow be just like I want it to be.” I opened my eyes and raised my head at that. His hands were clenched and his brow furrowed as he spoke each. Word. Plainly. This was serious stuff. “What do you think, Dad?” he asked as I tucked him in. “Do you think that’ll work?” I shrugged. “Maybe,” I said.

It was a lie, of course. We all lie to our kids sometimes. We bend the truth so a bigger Truth can be uncovered. You don’t get sent to hell for telling those kinds of lies. The next night brought new developments. There was still thanks as the day had been another good one, though dinner had been a little suspect with the inclusion of broccoli. The teddy bear had been found without the aid of flashlight batteries, which seemed to my son a miraculous event. Petitions were altered to remove the lost toy and add a plea for no more vegetables. Then, again: “And God, please let tomorrow be just like I want it to be, in Jesus Christ Holy God Worshipful Son’s name amen.” The Worshipful Son bit was thrown in as a blatant attempt to curry favor. I knew that, and so did he. But hey, it could work.

It didn’t. Every day for the next two weeks my son would come home and I would ask him if God had answered his prayer. “Was today just like you wanted it?” I’d ask. “No,” he’d sigh. “Don’t know what’s goin’ on, Dad. Guess I’ll keep prayin’.” I’d nod in my wise, fatherly way and say, “Well, maybe tomorrow.” Tonight just before bed, I cheated and kept my eyes open as he prayed. There was no furrowed brow this time, no clenched fist. Just a sigh and, “God, I give up. Just do whatever you want tomorrow.” He was, for all intents and purposes, proud of that prayer. His tiny mind had been granted a very big breakthrough. “Is that surrender, Dad? Is that what I did? Because that’s what the church lady said in Sunday school.” “It’s a good start,” I said, then kissed him goodnight.

And it really was a good start. A point of departure, if you will. Because my son didn’t really surrender. Not really. “I give up,” he prayed. That’s not the same. We hold our burdens and our cares with the same expression as my son while he prayed—with clenched fists and furrowed brows. God asks that we yield those things to Him. That we open our hands and offer our burdens and cares to Him rather than drop them onto the ground at His feet. That’s the difference. God calls us to surrender. He never calls us to give up. One day my son will learn that lesson. One day I will, too.

Picture and post by Billy Coffey of