by Joanie Butman
A few weeks ago, I drove a couple of friends into the city to see a show. Miraculously, we found a ‘free’ parking space, or so we thought. When we entered a neighboring restaurant, a diner seated in the window kindly warned us that he had just received a ticket for parking there even though, technically, it was a legal spot. My friends and I looked at each other, shrugged and decided to live on the edge by leaving the car as is thinking the ticket would probably be cheaper than parking in a lot. We thanked him for his advice and moved on. However, when we came out of the restaurant, we noticed another available spot whose legality wouldn’t be an issue. Recognizing a Divine intervention, we decided to move the car.
Two of us stood in the spot to save it while the other went to retrieve the car. Some guy with Jersey plates (just saying) pulls up and starts backing into our space despite the fact that WE ARE STANDING IN IT! Doesn’t he understand NY etiquette in regard to saving spaces? Apparently not. In her best Wonder Woman impression, my girlfriend attempted to push the car back (literally) while screaming at the man, “You don’t understand. We’re NOT moving!” We were at a stalemate. He continued to back up while she continued to thwart him with her words and body. I’m Not sure which was stronger. It brings up the question, What would you die for? Or kill for? in his case. A parking space in New York? Perhaps. New York is a crazy place.
Well, so is the rest of the world. How often do we come upon an immovable obstacle and struggle in vain to remove it through sheer willpower, knowing full well the laws of physics are against us? Or maybe we just throw ourselves under the ‘bus’ as a matter of principle or defiance. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got tire tracks on my back as testimony to my obstinate nature. I wish I had learned the art of surrender sooner, though that word is anathema to a New Yorker – as well as to human beings as a whole, I suppose.
Spirituality has its own laws of physics. Basically, the equation is as follows.
S = P + F
Surrender = Peace + Freedom
How often do others counsel us about consequences (based on their own experiences) before we decide on a course of action? Wise people heed those warnings. Sadly, much like I decided to chance it with the parking space, too often I throw caution to the wind, along with my friends’ and family’s sage advice, to do it my way regardless of the consequences. I’ve also been guilty of pushing the envelope, so to speak, challenging the boundaries of my own Christianity. Is it ‘technically’ a sin? Who is it hurting? Can I get away with it? If not, can I afford the consequence? I’m sure some of you are familiar with the conversation. I can only share that based on personal experience, the results of this kind of behavior aren’t pretty, which is how I learned the practice of surrender. There's no 'getting away' with anything with God. Surrender is an ongoing lesson and a skill that has to be honed daily by diligent exercise.
Surrender goes against every natural instinct to protect what’s rightfully ours. Yet, in Christ’s upside down kingdom He states very clearly, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:38:39). The more we die to self, the greater our sense of freedom and inner peace. Sounds convoluted, but speaking from experience, it works. Maybe not for parking spaces, but for most everything else. It’s a daily workout to surrender our agenda and will to God’s, and not for the faint of heart. It involves huge leaps of faith and enormous trust. Make no mistake, it takes A LOT of discipline and practice, and sometimes it’s easier than others. Regardless, I will tell you that the more inner peace you have, the easier it gets to discern that still small voice guiding you and making your path straight – resulting in less penalty fees (monetary or otherwise.)
So, did we get the parking space? Am I a New Yorker? Of course we did. No one from New Jersey is going to push me (or my bad-ass girlfriend) around. I know, I know, this essay is all about surrender. Still, sometimes I just have to ask forgiveness after the fact. I’m only human, which is why I choose to rely on Jesus to save my place in Heaven. Blessedly, there’s no scarcity of them so I don’t have to compete for a parking spot or go to great lengths like many New Yorkers. Christ has one reserved with my name on it, and it's free. Is there one with your name on it?
Dedicated to Catherine (a true warrior in many ways) for always being willing to throw herself under the bus for me.