Angel Wingsby Elizabeth Gilbert

Surrender is what happens when you come to the end of your power. Surrender is what happens when you have searched to the bottom of your soul and found out this truth — which is that you really can’t do this thing anymore. Surrender is what happens when you don’t have any more ideas for how to fix everything. Surrender is what happens when none of your survival strategies work anymore — and your playbook is out of pages. Surrender is what happens when you turn it all over to God. You release your grip on the thing. You stop white-knucking (sic) it. You stop pretending things are great when things are actually horrible. You stop putting on a fake face, or glossing over the problem, or lying. You face the truth that you are not the most powerful force in the universe. You turn it over to fate. You exhale, and let go.

There is always grace in surrender. There is always truth in surrender. There is always a great deal of human dignity in surrender. And what happens next is often very beautiful. You crack open because you have stopped fighting and pretending, and once you do that…anything whatsoever can now occur. Sometimes your true fate can only find you after you have surrendered. As Richard from Texas taught me about cracking yourself open in surrender…well, that where God can rush in. The universe can sometimes only work through you once you have surrendered.

Our friend Pastor Rob Bell has pointed out that — if you go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting — you will see a room full of people who have surrendered. Everyone in there has reached the end of their power. That’s why those rooms shimmer with real, painful, deep grace. Those are rooms filled with people who are saying, “I have nothing left to offer this problem. I’m at the end of myself. I don’t know what happens now. Help me.”

Anyone who has ever walked into a therapist’s office for the first time, or a psychiatrist’s office, is in a moment of beautiful surrender. (“I have nothing left to offer this problem. I’m at the end of myself. I don’t know what happens now. Help me.”) Anyone who has ever knocked on the door of a women’s emergency shelter in the middle of the night has surrendered. Anybody who ever inched back into a church after years spent away from worship, has surrendered. (And for that matter, anybody who has ever backed out of their church after years of devoted participation, because their hearts can no longer accept the bullshit and the hypocrisy, has also surrendered.) Anybody who has ever picked up the phone to call hospice has surrendered. Anybody who has ever decided to cut off contact with somebody whom they love with all their heart — but that person is an addict, or violent, or a thief, or a liar, or abusive, or has been lost to a cult, or has turned hateful — is in a state of surrender.

Divorce courts are filled with people who have surrendered — people who have reached the end of their power. As dreadful and scary as divorce court was for me, I witnessed and experienced real grace unfolding there. I myself had to surrender to divorce court (and to the universe) and to completely let go of my power when I left my marriage. And although it was painful, there was certainly nothing lazy about it. I had reached the end of myself. I had no fresh ideas for how to make this relationship work. I was empty, and cracked open. I might as well have been in a temple, for how deeply I was changed by the experience of divorce court. What happened next was nothing less than the unfolding of an entirely new life.

I have quit on things, and I have surrendered on things…and there is a world of difference between them.