“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” (Isa. 40:28b-29)
Day in and day out, Tiara sits next to the rundown bus ticket booth pleading for the leftover coins from each ticket purchase. She is here without fail, when the sun is hot and the air is humid, when it is windy and cold, even when it is pouring down rain. Maria is the mother of three small children all younger than 4 and so without a better option she must bring home enough change to buy diapers, food, clothing, and pay rent for her humble home.
In his book, Simple Spirituality, Chris Heuertz talks about two different types of submission. A forced submission that we find many of our friends who are poor and marginalized are made to bear, and a chosen submission, where one decides to put aside needs and desires for the sake of others.
Throughout Tiara’s life she has experienced forced submission, moving from home to home often forced to undertake the dirtiest and most difficult chores, only to be given the leftovers. It wasn’t long before it became too much, and she decided to leave hoping that life somewhere else would be better. Unfortunately, she didn’t find a better place and the streets became her home. Despite her circumstances, there is something so remarkable and beautiful about Tiara. In the face of her many years in forced submission, she has chosen to give up her needs every day, to sacrifice her desires so that her babies can eat, have clean warm clothes to wear and have a place to call home. To see the joy in her face proves that it is true submission, that she loves her children so much that she goes without so they don’t have to.
For most of my life I have viewed submission as an act of will. It has often been something that I knew God wanted me to do, or that my parents have asked of me. What I haven’t grasped until recently is that submission is not just an act of will; in fact, it must be an act of love. I have this bad habit of submitting to others outwardly, yet in my heart, grumbling about it. This is my selfishness rearing its ugly head. I don’t really want to give up anything, I don’t want to have to sacrifice my desires, let alone what I think are my needs.
It is a young mother working in the pouring down rain to give her children a dry bed to sleep in that compels me to choose to love others just as I love myself. Only then can I truly submit. To be in submission to God, family, community and the poor means to let go of what I want, even what I need (or think I need) to encourage and empower others. To empower them means putting their needs above mine, their wants above my wants. It means advocating on their behalf even when it requires a sacrifice from me and helping to fulfill their wants and desires before seeking to fulfill my own. We see in the Gospels over and over again that the power of Christ came through his submission to the Father, culminating in his death on a cross, the ultimate sacrifice, the singular most powerful act in the history of man.
I choose submission in order to empower my friends like Tiara who have been forced into lives of deference to oppressive forces. I choose submission in order to help my wife fulfill her needs and desires. I choose submission to meet the needs of my children. I choose submission to abide with the Creator of all the earth, who never grows weak or weary. I must choose to love others more than I love myself.
Christopher L. Heuertz, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), pp.105-110