Surrender to Love

Surrender to Love
By David Benner

I started reading this book back in January and yes it’s April so I finally decided to finish it. No ragrets. This one was best digest in small bits. Maybe not as small as I took them but significant all the same. This is the first book of a three part series. I’m sure I’ll dig into the other two at some point.

Highlights from this book:

  • others associate it with codependence or an abdication of personal power.

  • If it is anything less than a response to love, Christ-following is not fully Christian.

  • To be human is to have been designed for intimate relationship with the Divine.

  • personal fulfillment lies in connection, not autonomy.

  • God’s love is never compromised by anger.

  • because God’s love has nothing to do with my behavior.

  • The Father’s love reflects the Father’s character, not the children’s behavior.

  • Human beings exist because of God’s desire for companionship.

  • We long for perfect love but easily become discouraged about the possibility of ever deeply experiencing it.

  • But another part of us seems bent on living out our illusions of freedom and autonomy.

  • “substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there.”

  • There is no substitute for a genuine encounter with Perfect Love.

  • “Knowledge by acquaintance,” Tozer affirms, “is always better than mere knowledge by description.”

  • I find it remarkable how easily I accepted ideas about God as substitutes for direct experience of him.

  • perhaps the most widely known and respected of evangelical mystics—testifies

  • The deepest need for all human beings is to surrender to Perfect Love.

  • people who live predominantly in thoughts and rational analysis need to learn to embrace their feelings. Doing so is a way of becoming more fully alive and fully human.

  • My obedience was out of duty, not devotion, and my earliest steps on the spiritual journey involved covering my bases to minimize risk; they were not steps of surrender to love.

  • The root of the fear lies in unrealistic expectations of the self—expectations, for example, of always being loving or always being productive.

  • But as noted by Kierkegaard, unresolved guilt always damages the capacity for love.

  • Surrender to God’s love offers us the possibility of freedom from guilt, freedom from effort to earn God’s approval, and freedom to genuinely love God and others as the Father loves us.

  • The second problem in simply trying to do what God asks is that it leaves the kingdom of self intact.

  • Only God deserves absolute surrender, because only God can offer absolutely dependable love.

  • An ancient Sufi story speaks of fish that spend their days anxiously swimming around in search of water, failing to realize that they are in the midst of it. Their distress is suddenly eliminated when they open their eyes and see where they really are.

  • For as soon as we stop and observe our floating, we’re overcome by an automatic impulse to do something to keep afloat.

  • Considering how easy and natural floating is, I am amazed how much energy I expend treading water. The lie I seem to believe is that my efforts are keeping me afloat, perhaps even keep me moving through the water.

  • death to their old kingdom of self and an awakening of a new life of surrender to Perfect Love.

  • “Every morning I must say again to myself, today I start.”

  • But if an encounter with divine love is really so transformational, how is it that so many of us have survived such encounters relatively unchanged?

  • It is not the fact of being loved unconditionally that is life-changing. It is the risky experience of allowing myself to be loved unconditionally.

  • Human love, no matter how noble, is always contaminated to some extent by self-interest.

  • Love always contains sparks of divine presence.

  • In spite of how central the cross is to the Christian story, Christians are always tempted to minimize its importance in their own journey.

  • We want a spirituality of improvement, not a spirituality of transformation.

  • the way of the cross is the way of descent, abandon and death. This is the foolishness of the gospel.

  • But my identity is based on an illusion unless it is grounded in human solidarity and community.

  • The point of being human is to learn love.

  • This second stage has none of the warm and pleasant feelings associated with the first. It is experienced as crisis and manifested in tears, anguish and despair. At its core it involves what St. Bernard calls movement from loving God for my sake to loving him for his sake.9 It is a hard painful conversion that is essential if we are to enter into mature love. We are led into such love by means of illumination—that is, “seeing what it might mean to love God with all our powers of mind and heart.”10 This seeing requires ripping away the self-delusions that blind us.

    It involves beginning to see God as he really is, not as I wish him to be. Thus it always involves a harsh confrontation with reality. Peter’s denial of Christ and subsequent deep remorse illustrate this second stage of conversion. The illumination came when he looked into Jesus’ eyes and saw that he was still deeply loved. This new seeing had implications for how he saw himself as well as how he saw God. But it also matured his love for God and others. Now he knew with certainty that he was loved in the midst of his sin and failure.

  • Christian spirituality is a path of descent, not ascent. Although we sometimes treat it as a spirituality of self improvement through movement up a ladder of successive approximations to holiness, it is a spirituality of following Jesus on a journey of self-emptying.

  • Surrender is a way of saying, “I acknowledge that I do not need this for my happiness and fulfillment.”