Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dangerous Surrender

I love my job. Partly because of some unique perks. Working in an editorial department means early exposure to new books. Given that I'm such a bookworm someone may try to stick me on the end of a fishhook at somepoint, this is a truly glorious situation. It's also why I moved a couch into my office area; sitting in a desk chair reading and proofing is rather uncomfortable.
I just finished reading Kay Warren's new work, "Dangerous Surrender," due out soon. Now, I admit, I had been skeptical - when you have gourmet chocolate, you worry about disappointment in M&M's. After you've had your head stuck in academia long enough, it can be easy to slip into this mindset: if it's popular, it's probably shallow. You know, like Brittany Spears, or the show The Bachelor, or the Prayer of Jabez.
Kay Warren is not shallow.
The Purpose Driven wife, as my roommate christened her the other day, breaks whatever misconceptions I had about bestsellers and those associated with them. "Dangerous Surrender" is as un-health and wealth gospel as you can get.
In it, she narrates her walk with God as she grew in her surrender to the burden God was placing on her heart - ministry to those with HIV/AIDS, care for AIDS orphans in Africa, etc. Voices ring in your ears after reading her blunt account, as she easily draws on the wisdom of Amy Carmichael, Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Oswald Chambers. There's a lot about dying to self, becoming like Christ, and the unglamorous walk of the faithful. She brings readers face to face with skeletal women dying under a tree in Mozambique, children forced into prostitution in southeast Asia, and women who have contracted AIDS from the husbands, only to be kicked out of their houses and villages. Kay vividly paints the kingdom of God in recognizable, if difficult terms - dying to self means sharing with the dying. Dying to self means knowing the fellowship of Christ's suffering. Through the lens of her own diagnosis of breast cancer, Kay accepts this new tutorial in identifying with the sick, lending her something new to give - empathy with the ill.
It is easily the best devotional/spiritual memoir/call to action/biographical narrative that I have read in a long time. Corrie ten Boom comes to mind. Any "classic" you've read will drift through your thoughts as you find yourself repeatedly challenged to surrender yourself more and more to God's work.
I found it humorously challenging and helpful to read this at this season in my life. The other day, I arrived at work and shared with a coworker the weekend's activities. John and I had walked through that rite of passage, gift registry. It's all hearts and doves until, "you don't like blue? what's wrong with blue?" he asks. I am categorically making my way down an aisle while he bounces ahead, blurting, "...and see this red casserole dish? and here's a cutting board..." "I'm still at the bread pans!" I cry out. It's on to a detailed discussion of salt and pepper shaker preferences. It was wonderfully, beautifully, exhausting. It was retail tug and war, give and take.
On sharing these moments with coworker, church elder Bob, he grinned wisely. "That was a gift from God," he announced. "I forgot how opinionated we both are," I admitted. "Best to be reminded now, in that relatively insignificant situation," he reminded. Then he went on: "what we should ask every young couple is this: where are you going to get married? where? in a church? where in a church? up front? where up front? oh, really, at the altar? what's an altar? yes, yes, a block of wood, but WHAT IS an altar? ahh...a place where things are tied down kicking and screaming with a knife at their throat dying as every bit of them is burnt up in smoke and flames...that is what marriage is, the dying to self, and that's what you're proclaiming at an altar, that you are dying to yourself for this other person, and it will make you grow like you've never grown before - and that is God's mercy to you, an amazing gift."
Dying to self. On our registry at Target, there are blue bath towels - a nod to him - and blue placemats - another nod. There are also a red kitchenaid chopper - because I've long wanted one - and an electric knife (I think he'll like that once he uses it). There are also two sets of salt and pepper shakers.
There is more, though. How rare is it to be a bride with a crazily enthusiastic groom during gift registry? One that cares about kitchen supplies?
There is more, even, that that. Part of why we both (strongly) care about napkins and welcome mats is this - we both intensely wish to offer hospitality to others. Part of dying to self, is dying to ourselves as a couple - letting our very relationship be a threshold at which others can come and meet Christ's touch, the love of Jesus in as practical a form as a bowl of soup or mug of tea. To be poured out as a couple means sharing our home, our lives, to be poured out for others.
Kay's "Dangerous Surrender" doesn't make that look easy. But it does make it look worth it.


Unknown said...

This sounds like a really good book. I heard Mrs. Warren talking about her illness and her "calling" on tv once. She seems like quite a lady.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...

I'll be interviewing her for Good News magazine soon. It should appear in the March/April issue.