There are sacred moments that force us to step back, take a deep breath and exhale in wonder at the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. I’m currently living in one of those seasons. Holding my newborn daughter in my arms (at 43 years of age) has sent me to a place of unbelievable gratitude as I ponder the God who gives us “Exceedingly more than we can ask, imagine, or think.”
If you had told me ten years ago, when I first launched Redeemed Girl as a single woman with a vision to see women fall in love with Jesus, that a decade later I would see God do the things that He’s done; I would have thought you were crazy.
Back then, the call to start Redeemed Girl was simply choosing to follow nudges from the Holy Spirit to take steps of faith, into an unseen and unknown land of obedience and dependence. Heeding the call to write, speak, and start a non-profit were all completely out of my comfort zone, but I knew without a doubt that I was called and my only choice was to obey or disobey.
Would I say “yes” or “no?”
Surrender to His will or demand my own?
During those early days of RGM, I was also simultaneously walking through a season of brokenness. If you’ve read my book Wilderness Skills for Women, then you know that story. That time was incredibly painful. Heartbreak. Unmet Desires. But on top of all that fun stuff, there was an intentional and sadistic season of spiritual warfare in which the Enemy of my Soul tried his darndest to take me out and silence my voice for the Kingdom of God.
I tell you this because it was in this season that my heart was assailed by the most intense lies I’ve ever known. The primary lie was this: “Marian, if you fully surrender to the will of God and lay down your life for the Kingdom, then you’ll never experience or know the desires of your heart.”
Satan’s taunts said: “You only have two options, Marian:
A. You can obey God and live for His glory … and be miserable. Or …
B. You can ignore God’s call and pursue the desires of your heart and find happiness on your terms.”
Here’s the thing about our enemy, Jesus straight up called him the “Father of Lies.”
Looking back, I know I believed this lie to a certain degree. When I surrendered my life to the call to start RGM, there was part of me that honestly thought I was giving up the desires and longings of my heart. (You know, all the things we girls long for even if we pretend we don’t. See my last post for more on this topic.) There was this lie that said, “You can’t have it all. You must choose Jesus or your heart.”
Back then, I chose Jesus.
And guess what? Jesus is right.
Satan is a liar.
In choosing Jesus, I discovered my heart’s true desire, and along the way He threw in more than I could have asked or imagined. There’s a song by Hillsong United that states it this way: “I found my life when I laid it down.”
Friends, this is the best-kept secret about the Kingdom of God. Only when we fully surrender to God, do we discover the abundant life. Only when we lay down our lives to follow Jesus, do we actually discover the life we were born to live. Ten years ago, I thought surrender was choosing to sacrifice the longings of my heart, what I’ve learned in the decade since is that I actually found them.
Here’s a fact: There is no happier or richer place than the center of God’s will. And conversely, there is no scarier place than being outside of God’s will.
I should know, I’ve done both.
As I took those initial steps of faith to start Redeemed Girl, the Lord allowed me to be part of some of the most amazing and thrilling moments in serving Him. Moments that have stopped me in my tracks and filled me with awe as I pondered His sovereign plan. Moments I would have missed if God had given me “my way” on “my timetable.”
I would have missed…
• Seeing thousands upon thousands of women trust Christ as Savior at our Girls’ Night Out evangelistic events.
• Ministering to orphans rescued from brothels in India.
• Developing incredible life-long friendships.
• Watching women fall in love with Jesus at Redeemed Girl Institute.
• Writing my first five books. (Each was birthed out of the season of singleness and waiting upon God. God wasted nothing!)
• Meeting my husband, God’s highest and best, in His perfect timing.
• Stepping into the role of “Bonus Mom” to two amazing young men.
What I know now, but didn’t know then is this: I could have pursued the desires of my heart and ended up miserable. I would have missed out on the blessing of walking in God’s will and waiting for His best. There is a reason Jesus said:
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
As I contemplate this truth, my mind turns to Christmas. After all, it was Mary, the mother of Jesus, who models for us the beauty of the surrendered life. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary, a young Jewish woman engaged to be married and pretty much wrecked her plans by announcing that she would be the mother of the Messiah and carry the Son of God in her womb. This was not Mary’s plan.
Can you imagine the conversation she had with Joseph?
Or what about the one she had with her parents?
In that day and age, a woman didn’t just get pregnant outside of marriage. God wrecked Mary’s perfect little life plan. But just as the Lord does with all us, sometimes He wrecks our plans to give us something far better.
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.
For nothing will be impossible with God.”And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Hear these powerful words again, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” That, my friends, is the heart of surrender. Confessing to God that He can do with your life whatever He chooses.
Mary’s choice to surrender ultimately brought about the salvation of anyone who puts their faith in Jesus. But don’t for a second think that surrender is always easy. Surrender to God’s will for Mary meant she was falsely accused of adultery, belittled as a sinner and rejected by her community. The center of God’s will meant that she watched the son she loved experience heart wrenching suffering. But, through her surrender, God brought about the greatest act of love the world has ever known. And through it all, the Lord was glorified and magnified in her life.
What about you?
Where is the Spirit of God leading you today?
How is the Lord calling you to a place of surrender?
Today, I sit at my writing desk with a sweet little girl swaddled next to my heart. I’ll be honest. She was not my plan, but like the rest of my life, God has proven that His plan is far better than mine. God writes the best stories. Our only call is to say “yes” to His will and follow where His Spirit leads. Every day of this new season called Motherhood, I am in awe at how the Lord worked out the timing and details so perfectly. A decade ago, when I thought I was sacrificing these dreams, the Lord already knew this sweet girls’ name and knew the role that she would play in His story. Surrender, my friends, is never losing it is always gaining God’s highest and best.
I remember the early days when I first started following Jesus. Since I came to Christ with such a sinful backstory, the Cross of Jesus was the most beautiful thing these shame filled eyes had ever beheld. I recall thinking at that time, “My life is not my own anymore.” Since Jesus bought me with His blood and redeemed my life from the pit then He alone gets to call the shots. Jesus was not just my Savior; He was my Lord. Therefore, surrender was the natural response of this redeemed girl.
Now that I’ve walked with Jesus nearly two decades and for the past ten years in ministry, here is what I know to be true: Surrender is the secret to the greatest life you’ll ever know. God awaits our “yes” so that He can take us by the hand and lead us into the abundant life that He has planned for us. From one Redeemed Girl to another, let me encourage you with these words: “You will find your life when you lay it down!”
Marian Jordan Ellis