In the Disney film "Finding Nemo", Merlin, a clown fish who is looking for his young son Nemo, finds himself, along with is ADD friend Dorie, in the mouth of a whale. They are lying on the whale’s tongue when all of the sudden things begin to shift. The tongue moves up, the water begins to rush toward the back of the throat and Merlin panics. He believes that the whale is trying to swallow them so he clings tightly to the tongue, urging Dorie to do the same. Finally, Dorie decides to let go of the tongue and flow with the water. She tells Merlin to do the same. Merlin has a question, "How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?". Dorie answers with truth, "You don’t!" They both let go and end up being blown out of the whale through the water spout instead of swallowed. Sometimes, in order to move toward healing, you just have to let go! Surrender.
In the sermon where Jesus taught us that surrender is required, He also defined surrender. He basically said that surrender has two sides; self-denial (take up your cross) and trust (follow me). Merlin had to let go of his fears and desire for safety and follow Dorie. Jesus had to let go of his own desire not to suffer and trust God’s plan. We must do the same.
These two sides to surrender are illustrated well in the extreme sport of bungee jumping. The daredevil climbs to a high place, fastens a bungee cord to his ankle on one end and to something foundational on the other. The thrill of bungee jumping can never be experienced, though, unless there is surrender. Standing on the cliff, bridge or elevated platform with the cord firmly attached does NOT qualify as bungee jumping. He actually has to JUMP! He has to surrender, deny himself the safety of the foundation he is standing on and trust the strength of the cord that is tied around his ankle (Christ) to keep him firmly connected to the foundation (Father). When he surrenders, he experience the thrill, the exhilaration, the sheer TERROR of bungee jumping! Maybe we have never pictured ourselves as someone who would take such a risk but, hang on, here we go!
Surrender begins with self-denial and it is radical. It cuts against our flesh and experience. It leads to death… the death of self. This is why Jesus used the phrase "take up your cross" when referring to surrender. If, in the Roman culture of the day, someone was carrying a cross out of the village, it was certain that he wasn’t coming back! The cross meant death. We must die to self in order to really experience the life that God has for us because the false self is grounded in self… not in God.
The second part of surrender is trust. If we go back to the bungee jumping illustration, once we have denied ourselves the safety of the platform, it is time to fully trust the cord! Scripture teaches us that trust is both leaning into God and acknowledging Him in all circumstances. Trust is KNOWING that God wants us to grow and experience life and that He loves us and cares about our journey. Trust almost presupposes the absence of feeling. If we always feel God’s love and presence, there is no real need for trust. Trusting is continuing to believe it, even when we can’t feel it.