My daughter is Iron Woman.
If you look closely into her long-lashed, soft blue eyes, she is not unlike a heroine of a Marvel comic. She may not be able to shoot red laser beams from her pupils, but in those eyes, you catch a glimpse of her iron will.
Any one who has observed our five-year-old Ava (pronounced like Eva in Estonian), has also given me a look of pity.
It’s the look that reveals another fellow parent’s thoughts.
“Glad God didn’t choose to give me one of those!”
Then there is the occasional
over-confident parent who sends me a glance that says:
“If I were her parent, I’d have her under control.”
Well, if you are one of the few who have ever truly lived with a Super woman, one with the determination and ability to someday dominate the world, you may realize that the process of teaching such a person to surrender is long.
It is a journey of loving them so deeply, kindly, uprightly and patiently that one day, they CHOOSE to imitate you.
People often assume that Ava gets her strong spirit from Nick.
After all, he is the outgoing and talkative one.
Every Sunday he gets up to speak at
and is known for his passionate and energetic speeches, marked with heel bounces, big hand gestures and pacing.
But, in our household, we all know the truth.
Nick and Oliver can sometimes be heard lovingly muttering in some distant, hidden corner of our living room, “We live with the two most stubborn human beings on earth.”
Yes, folks…she gets it from me.
My parents thought they had broken my strong will when I was a child, and I’ve kept it very well-hidden for years.
Then my counselor had me take a well-respected, researched and very official psychological exam to test me for all my neuroticism.
And there, amidst the dips and heights of the results bar graph, my iron will once again emerged for the entire world to see.
There I sat on her flowered couch- legs crossed; wide, gentle-eyed; peaceful; quiet; smiling. The counselor looked at my calm, innocent presence again, scratched her head, and traced the result’s pattern with her finger one final time to confirm the test's finding.
“Here it says you have a hidden pattern of rebellion.
You do not like to be controlled and you have issues with authority.”
Nick (a bit too eagerly) nodded his head in agreement and laughed as my long attempt to hide that strong core had finally been revealed on paper.
It was still there, buried under years of trying to be good, submissive, and doing whatever I had to do to prevent people from staring at me the same way they do Ava.
I don’t know if it was that counseling appointment that made the difference- that my secret was finally exposed- or just the stress of life. But over the past two years, my strong will seemed to be released and reappeared with a new adult fervor.
I have fought for my independence, my dreams and my voice – tempted to follow it even if it could possibly crush every one around me.
On Sunday, Focus Church had our very first baptism service.
I got to stand at a piano behind the baptism pool as eight people stood in front of their church, friends and family to publicly show their faith.
And as I sat playing the keys, I saw a paradox.
There stood our five-year old Ava at the edge of the baptism pool – doing the one thing I asked her not to do.
Just minutes before the service
, I firmly sat her down and lovingly whispered to her my expectations for the service. I needed her to be good during the service – stay seated in her chair, draw on her chalkboard, listen to her babysitter's rules, and not come forward to the front.
I looked up from my keyboard and realized Ava had thrown off her shoes
socks, and slipped her way into the forbidden zone. She placed her hands in the water, playing as her babysitter looked helplessly on.
The iron woman had won one more battle.
But, as she stood there, exercising her free will, I saw each person enter the tank to surrender theirs.
One by one, they stood knee deep in water.
They proclaimed their love and new-found belief in Christ in front of friends and family (many who thought they were crazy for doing something so ancient in a modern world that doesn’t need God).
They went down in the water and rose up, make-up less and smiling, clothes dripping wet and plastered to their bodies, as a new person.
has been practiced in the church for centuries, and it symbolizes your decision to leave your old self in the water, and come out as a new person – someone who walks with God.
Each of them came willing to surrender, and in front of a room filled with 110 people, they did.
And amidst of all that relinquishing, there stood my Ava – defying everyone with her hands in the waters of their surrender.
A few days before the event, one of my friends who was baptized on Sunday sent me a link to a song. Baptism was a big and scary step for her; yet one she knew she wanted to make. I can imagine her playing this song, listening to the words, and preparing her heart for the act of surrender.
Take a moment to listen to it. It is crucial to understanding the rest of this blog.
My heart beating,
My soul breathing,
I touched the sky,
When my knees hit the ground.
There are two distinct times in my life where I felt my strong-willed, hardened knees hit the concrete ground of surrender.
When I met God on my porch swing in the midst of battling anorexia. Read more about it here.
A week ago, when I realized that everything within me did not want to surrender to the path God had chosen for me.And yet, deep inside I realized that the only way I could experience true freedom was to die to my will and trust.
Find me here at your feet again,
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender.
Come sweep me up in your love again.
And my soul will dance on the wings of forever.
Through painful tears, my spirit crashed down in front of God, as I finally rose my arms with the white flag of surrender.
A part of me started the process of dying last week, and a part of me finally felt free.
"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" - Jesus in Matthew 16 - The Bible
People often say that Christianity is only for the weak-souled; those who need a crutch. We are too feeble to live in this world without a higher power.
That is pure fiction.
This Christianity thing is the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do.
Our relationship with God requires us to forgive when forgiveness is not deserved. We love those who are unlovable. We pull the roots of bitterness, hate and selfishness out of our lives. We give to the poor. We serve others instead of ourselves. We even follow God's narrow road for our lives, when everything within us wants to run down the wider path. We die to ourselves daily. And as we die, we finally see the things that truly matter and last.
This is no path for the weak.
I've tasted and know well the desires of my true, weak self. And although very pleasurable, many of those things would ultimately destroy me.
And I come back to a recurring theme of my blog and my life.
You were made for more.
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground.
We need to force ourselves to experience the ultimate irony of the universe. As we raise our white flag and dive into the waters of surrender,
we finally soar