“There’s something magical that happens when you surrender to the Universe and simply let go. When you stop doing and start being, only then can you find true peace.”
Lion Sands Game Reserve – Sabi Sands, South Africa (April 2015)
Acknowledging My Fear
One of the most difficult things about surrendering is it forces me to accept my own powerlessness. And in doing so, it requires me to acknowledge my fears and inadequacies. The art of surrendering my will to a higher plan is one I’ve struggled with my whole life. It’s the true battle of the me I want to be seen as versus the me who is. In these moments, I am able to see myself most clearly. After years of being forced to let go against my will, I have become quite good at trusting this process. Through the years, I’ve learned that when I accept my brokenness and inability, God is truly able to use more of me. And even though I’ll admit it’s becoming easier to stop resisting and simply let go, I’m always afraid each and every time I have to. The fear inherent in the moment of release is always there.
Now I know that may seem really odd and downright blasphemous to some. I mean “God didn’t give us the spirit of fear,” right? Well… I guess I see the concept of fear differently. God made me, didn’t He? He gave me life. And He blessed me with a full range of emotions – one of which is fear. To pretend like it doesn’t exist automatically gives it power over me. So facing my fear is always the first and most important step in surrendering. For it is only when I am finally able to muster up the courage to relax and trust fall backwards into the abyss of my frailty, that I am reminded and amazed at how doggone powerful surrendering feels.
Fighting An Uphill Battle
I wrote these words about the magic in surrendering last year at a particularly difficult time in my life. My business was growing at a rapid pace, I’d just been selected to be part of a prestigious and highly competitive leadership program, and I’d been in a committed relationship for three years with thoughts of marriage on the horizon. Yet, in my heart I knew something wasn’t right. Instead of being happy like I “should be” I was far from it. In fact, something was so off that the only recognizable feeling I had going to South Africa was exhaustion. I felt like I’d been fighting an uphill battle emotionally and instead of feeling the euphoria from scaling the mountain, I felt weary from the climb. Despite my best efforts, I felt as if at any moment the mountain would collapse and bury me alive. I was in a deep internal battle with myself and I was losing. This produced in me an immense sadness and I cried a lot.
One week before leaving, on my way to grab a bite to eat I began sobbing uncontrollably. The pain erupted from deep within my belly. It had been there for some time, and as I vomited up the sadness the sobbing grew more and more uncontrollable. I was inconsolable. Despite the fact that I had everything to be thankful for, a great life, career success, a great family and lots of friends, I felt completely and utterly alone. It was at that moment that a good friend called me. I was sitting in my car and had just pulled into my driveway. “Are you okay?”, she asked. My words. Incomprehensible. Despite my attempts to convince her I was okay. She knew I was not. It was time to surrender.
Accepting My Powerlessness
Lucky for me, she stopped her world to save me from mine. Within 30 minutes, she was at my front door. She drove me to my psychiatrist’s office, and there I prepared to surrender again to the reality that this ongoing struggle with psychotic depression, despite my best attempts to deny it, is a part of me and no amount of praying, wishing it away or pretending it isn’t there will erase that fact. In fact, accepting my illness and doing what I need to do to take care of myself is an ongoing daily process of surrendering to my own fears of being judged and ridiculed by others. Let me tell you mental suffering is silent and painful. Unseen by others and cloaked in shame, it’s grip is deadly. It takes courage to give voice to this type of pain, acknowledge it and ask for help. So I faced my reality again, met with my doctor and accepted my powerlessness in the moment. We agreed it was time for me to resume my medication for a while, and within a week’s time, she cleared me to go to South Africa.
Listening to My Soul
The trip to South Africa was eight years in the making, but it was right on time. I’d unsuccessfully attempted three times to visit. So to say I was excited about finally getting to take my dream vacation really is an understatement. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. I was not prepared for the glory of South Africa. As eloquent as my words may be, I will never be able to find the right ones to describe the majesty and beauty of this place. I felt a deep connection there. God showed up for me throughout my eight days in Africa, and I will forever be grateful. By far, going to South Africa hands down was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.
For three days on safari at the Lion Sands Game Reserve, I drove in a Land Rover with four others, two lovely women from Australia and my sister and cousin, as we explored the South African bush. It was in those quiet sunrise and sunset drives that my soul settled, and I finally exhaled the pressure of my life. I felt my sadness retreat and in its place I found pure, unadulterated peace. In those quiet moments amongst elephants, giraffes and underneath a canopy of stars, I felt God in his full amazing grace. Simple. Uncomplicated. Unfettered. Untouched. All consuming. As the wind whipped through my locs each morning, I felt His cool presence caress my face. I felt His love surrounding me in the trees and in the sounds of that South African bush. And I. I returned to life.
Somewhere in South Africa I found myself. I heard my voice again clearly. And I realized that I’d been overcomplicating my life by putting pressure on myself to be things I thought I should be for others and I wasn’t being who I needed to be for myself. I was letting the world’s expectations smother my own. South Africa breathed life in to me. And so I did. I surrendered right there in the heart of the jungle. I trusted God, fell into His arms and simply let go of it all (as scared as I may have been) and the moment indeed was magical.