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13 - The Autonomous Self and Surrender - Part 1

Updated: Aug 3, 2023



We all want to be free, and we don't like the idea of being confined or controlled. The idea of surrendering our lives to God might run counter to the way we think life should work, or the way we want it to. But what if freedom was surrender to God, and our attempt to be in control of our lives robs us of our freedom?


We've all been born into a particular place and time. We've all been enculturated within a specific set of values and ideas. We all see reality through the lens of our place in the world. But we often don't factor that into our view of the world. When it comes to freedom, and our ability to see and be in reality, we are a lot less in control than we think.


The essence of the Contemplative life is that we need a better view from somewhere outside ourselves, in order to see ourselves and the world properly. We've become trapped in a perspective that puts us at the center of our lives. We are not as in control of our lives as we think, because we are not as in control of how we see the world as we think. When we operate from a false perspective, we become a false self. Then we are living in opposition to reality. That's a bigger problem than you might think.


It's not that we can't think for ourselves, make choices, and move in a particular direction. Every day we wake up and make hundreds of choices that affect what we do, think, say, see, and know. It's that our perspective is limited enough to make our choices seem good when they may not be. Even if we can manage life pretty well on our own, it's better to reach out to a higher perspective if we could. We all need help. We all need good counsel and guidance from time to time. But what if we could live life with a good counselor who was with us all the time, helping us see things from the biggest perspective in order to make the best choices in everything we do? That is the idea of Immanuel which Jesus came to bring. That is the hopeful reality of God with us. That is the idea of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


God created the world.


God created the world to be a certain thing and work a certain way.


God created us like him, to be in communion as He is. That's the idea of the Trinity. God, out of God-communion, created us for God-communion. We aren't meant to live life independent of God, making decisions and leading our own lives apart from the leading of God.


When we live as autonomous individuals, who can think, act, do, and be whatever we want, then we break that God-communion and begin doing what seems good for us, regardless whether it is good for us or anyone else. It is our view as independent actors, disconnected from the universe, that creates what is broken and dysfunctional in the world.


This is what the Christian religion calls "sin" or "fallenness", ideas which can get distorted and twisted when we do not rightly understand the purpose of this connectedness. The purpose is not to appease a self-absorbed, petty God who demands obedience for the sake of obedience, but who desires surrender for the sake of wholeness. What God desires is for us to be healthy. The Christian term “sin” is simply the whole of what is unhealthy for us, which is anything that disconnects us from God, which also disconnects us from a true seeing of reality. Self-autonomy grounded in self-referential truth is unhealthy, because it disconnects us from a true seeing of ourselves and the world in connection to God.

As a person with many parts, we were designed to take in data through the three Knowing Centers, register that data in the Soul Being Center, and then let God help us understand that data through our Body and Spirit Centers. Without God, we default naturally to being our own meaning makers. We cannot help that, because we were created for meaning, and apart from God’s meaning we will create our own. But making our own meaning creates all kinds of auxiliary problems. It grounds us in a self-centered reality. If I make my own meaning, then I am the central actor in my own reality. Reality is centered on me. Imagine, not just you creating your own meaning, but 7 billion people creating their own meaning side by side in the world. This is a problem, and the source of great conflict and tension in the world.


Even where we try to coalesce these differing truth perspectives into more holistic systems of understanding, we still cannot match the unitive, holistic perspective of God. Our truth systems create localized and tribal pockets of unity that tend to align against other systems different from ours. So, we end up in culture wars, or literal wars, because we're all fighting to make our truth and view of reality center. This is the action of attempting to be our own god, and create our own gods, instead of surrendering to the one true God who lives in perfect unity within Himself, and with the world.


Our idea of personal autonomy translates out to a lot of bad consequences in terms of a highly interconnected world. But surrender to God brings us back to the proper place of unity we were created for. In union with God, we not only become reunified with the world around us, but better unified within our selves.

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