Does the Course want us to surrender?

We spiritual people talk a great deal about surrender, but A Course in Miracles never uses the word “surrender,” not once. Why is that?

I believe the reason is that the concept of surrender implies giving up your will in favor of a larger, more powerful will. It implies two wills that are at odds, in conflict, a conflict that is resolved by one will giving itself up in favor of the other.

The problem with this is that the Course is not asking us to give our will for the sake of God’s Will. Rather, it is asking us to let go of what we think is our will, and discover that our true will—what we really want—is exactly the same as God’s Will. Only when we have lost touch with what we really want do we think that God’s Will and ours are different. And only when we think they are different can we believe the solution is to surrender ours and yield to His.

That being said, I think Course students typically, and correctly, sense that there is an essence to the concept of surrender that is in the Course. This morning, a passage came to mind that perfectly captured the Course’s version of surrender. It is in the first section of The Song of Prayer and is talking about what it calls true prayer, which sounds an awful lot like meditation. After saying that in true prayer, “you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God’s Hands” (S-1.I.4:3), we find this:

Prayer is a stepping aside; a letting go, a quiet time of listening and loving. It should not be confused with supplication of any kind, because it is a way of remembering your holiness. Why should holiness entreat, being fully entitled to everything Love has to offer? And it is to Love you go in prayer. Prayer is an offering; a giving up of yourself to be at one with Love. (S-1.I.5:1-5)

Notice that last line: “Prayer is…a giving up of yourself to be at one with Love.” What does that mean? I’ve pondered that question literally for years. “Giving up of yourself” here surely does not refer to abandoning yourself. That’s the last thing the Course would want us to do.

As always, to find the meaning of “giving up of yourself” we need to look for clues right around that line—similar words or phrases that can clarify what that line means. Here is what I find:

• We are told to step aside (“Prayer is a stepping aside”), which means to move out of the way.

• We are told to let go (“Prayer is…a letting go”), which means to relax, or release one’s hold.

• We are told to offer ourselves up (“Prayer is an offering; a giving up of yourself”).

• We are told to take our specific needs “and let them go into God’s Hands.”

If we see these four things as clues to the meaning of “giving up of yourself,” I see two different themes. One is that we are giving up control; specifically, control of ourselves. I see that in the first two items: in being told to let go and to step aside. It’s as if we are keeping a grip on ourselves that is getting in the way of what could happen. We need to relax that grip and get out of the way.

The other is that we are offering ourselves up into God’s Hands, which means placing ourselves in His control. I see that in the third and fourth items: in the idea of offering ourselves up and in letting our needs go into God’s Hands.

What’s interesting is that “giving up of yourself” can be read in either of these two ways. It can be read as giving up control of yourself. And it can be read as giving yourself upward, offering yourself up. Indeed, “offer up” has a very relevant meaning here (“Prayer is an offering; a giving up”). It means to present something as an act of worship, as a gift to God or the gods. In this case, of course, what you present is yourself.

So the giving up of yourself means to relax your grip on yourself and let yourself go into the Hands of God. It means to offer yourself up as a gift to God. It means to get out of your own way so that God can have His way. It means to give yourself up “to be at one with Love.”

Basically, it means to surrender.