In a me” world, the thought of sub­mis­sion, much less actu­al­ly sub­mit­ting our­selves to God or oth­ers, is anath­e­ma. Yet, what bet­ter way to enter this sea­son of Lent than by engag­ing in the dis­ci­pline of sub­mis­sion? The rit­u­al action of Ash Wednes­day, ash­es being marked on our fore­heads in the sign of a cross, reminds us of our bro­ken­ness, our mor­tal­i­ty, and our depen­dence on God to work new life in us and through us. We are not in control!

Sub­mis­sion reminds us it is bet­ter to be in right rela­tion­ship than always hav­ing to be right. 

We give our­selves to one anoth­er mutu­al­ly, as learn­ers and teach­ers, lead­ers and fol­low­ers, desir­ing only the best for all. This dis­ci­pline has been hor­ri­bly abused in Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty over the cen­turies — pas­tors impos­ing their wills on their peo­ple, hus­bands demand­ing strict obe­di­ence from their wives, par­ents wield­ing a heavy hand on their chil­dren as they pun­ish in accor­dance with the will of God.” Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth of this discipline. 

Sub­mis­sion invites us to hum­ble, open, mutu­al­ly depen­dent rela­tion­ship with God and with one anoth­er. We accept our place as ser­vants of God, not mas­ters of our own destiny. 

We rel­ish being both learn­er and teacher, leader and fol­low­er, cre­ators of vision and those who do the ordi­nary work of car­ry­ing it out. 

Ash Wednes­day

If you’ve got­ten any­thing at all out of fol­low­ing Christ, if his love has made any dif­fer­ence in your life… Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put your­self aside, and help oth­ers get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with get­ting your own advan­tage. For­get your­selves long enough to lend a help­ing hand.
— Philip­pi­ans 2:1 – 4 MSG

What does it mean to you to sub­mit your­self to fol­low­ing Christ? 

What areas of your life are you less will­ing to cede control? 

In what spe­cif­ic ways do you strug­gle with get­ting to the top, gain­ing your own advan­tage? Say a prayer of con­fes­sion to God for those areas. 

What would it look like, in your life, to for­get your­selves long enough to lend a help­ing hand?” 

Think of ways to sub­mit your­self for the bet­ter­ment of oth­ers at home, at work, at school. 

How can you be less con­trol­ling of oth­ers and more loving? 

Thurs­day: How can we talk about this with others? 

The themes of humil­i­ty, ced­ing con­trol, and offer­ing our­selves for the sake of oth­ers launch our Lenten jour­ney. As you talk with a for­ma­tion­al friend or reflect upon this expe­ri­ence indi­vid­u­al­ly, con­sid­er these questions: 

In what areas of your life do you strug­gle with either lack of con­trol or desir­ing to con­trol too much? How can you imag­ine those rela­tion­ships differently? 

Con­trol is often a man­i­fes­ta­tion of fear or anx­i­ety. What are the fears under­ly­ing your desire to con­trol or your per­ceived lack of control? 

God choos­es to work through love not coer­cion. Does that change how you see your­self in rela­tion­ship with God? 

What would it mean for you to sub­mit your­self to oth­ers in love this week? 

Fri­day: A per­son­al reflection. 

What’s best for me isn’t always what’s best for all. I learned that the hard way in my first call as a pas­tor. I was young, ener­getic for min­istry, eager to prove myself and make a mark. The pas­tor I joined on staff had a dif­fer­ent vision for wor­ship and min­istry than I did, had made his mark, and (I found out lat­er) was also strug­gling with his mar­riage — none of which I was par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive to. 

When peo­ple would pull me aside and affirm my vision, instead of call­ing them to be part of our” vision, I would con­cur. As I found out, it doesn’t take long to dri­ve a wedge between staff. When the staff of a larg­er church is divid­ed, the whole body suf­fers. Alliances emerge. Bit­ter­ness takes root. Ener­gy for mis­sion is sapped out of the sys­tem. What’s best for me isn’t always what’s best for all. 

Some­times you learn more through pain than plea­sure. That was cer­tain­ly the case for me. It’s not easy to make deci­sions that work bet­ter for the body than for me. The dis­ci­pline of sub­mis­sion has been a great teacher. The work can nev­er be lim­it­ed to what I can know, do, or con­trol. So, I’m learn­ing to give up con­trol when it ben­e­fits oth­ers. It’s not always about me. 

What’s best for me isn’t always what’s best for all. 

When have you learned to give up con­trol? What was that like? How did it affect your rela­tion­ship to oth­ers, your sense of self? 

Sat­ur­day: Insights for the journey. 

Each Sat­ur­day, we hope you will gath­er the salient expe­ri­ences, the accu­mu­lat­ed insights, the inner prompt­ings from the week and write them down on the jour­nal page. 

How have you expe­ri­enced God’s pres­ence this week? 

How has your con­nec­tion with your­self, with oth­ers deep­ened because of your inten­tion­al work with this discipline? 

What about this dis­ci­pline will you con­tin­ue to build into your life? 

Ask God for con­tin­ued guid­ance and encour­age­ment as you make the jour­ney of this season.

We’re glad you’re here!

Help­ing peo­ple like you abide with Jesus is why we post resources like this one. Always ad-free, Ren­o­varé is sup­port­ed by those who know soul-care is vital. Would you join us?

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Excerpt­ed from Engage: A Lenten Guide for Spir­i­tu­al Growth. Copy­right 2014 Renovaré.

Originally published December 2013