11 June, 2015

Becoming an Ordinary Saint

I am currently reading The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster. I read his father’s book while in Africa and at the time the disciplines seemed a bit overwhelming to me. I was lost in my own dark night and so the idea of stillness, submission, fasting, or confession, which would have probably prevented much of what came after, were too much for me to even consider.

Nathan Foster
It is tragic that the church has lost the disciplines. They are a way of bringing about true communion with God. We are trying to talk to God with only the numbers' pad on our phone. We can’t talk to God and His voice is lost along the way. We are a broken, lonely, disconnected people who don’t seem to realize the power of solitude, meditation, service and guidance.

This week we will speak about submission and how it can be a source of freedom in the midst of life’s difficulties.


Foster starts with submission. This is living with hands open – it is the core of David’s humility. He knew that nothing he had was truly his and so lived his life fully submitted to God. That does not mean he got it right 100% of the time. We are all human and regardless of how much we try to yoke ourselves to God and let Him “train” us how to be, we are still flawed people in need of grace. But in the key moments, David realized he was not the author of his story and chose to leave that role with God instead of pretending it was his.

Richard Foster defines submission as: the spiritual discipline that frees us from the everlasting burden of always needing to get our own way. … We learn to hold things lightly, We are also always learning to diligently watch over the spirit in which we hold others – honoring them, preferring them and loving them" (p. 21 – Saint).

So the big deal with the actions of Sarah to Hagar, David to Bathsheba or the duplicity of Rebecca is not only did they usurp the role of God to get their own way, but they also used/destroyed another person to do it.

They put (let) their desire for a child, their lust, the need to be first, override their trust in Him. They chose to have “their own way” verses knowing God was writing a narrative through them (as he does with all who truly submit to him) and trusting his timing.

“Submission means to hold the interest of others above our own. It means freedom self-pity and self-absorption (the opposite of submission). … Self-denial is the only true path to self-fulfillment" (p.21 – Saint).

Circumstantial Freedom

Too often we only look at physical freedom. Maybe Paul’s words in Ephesians to the slaves was a key to “internal freedom, the type of freedom that can never be stolen. Do our external circumstances always dictate the level of freedom we feel? Can we find freedom through submission?" (p.28 – Saint).

The answer is no – circumstances do not dictate our freedom. People in prison, hiding or pain find true freedom and people with “everything” are imprisoned.

It’s attitudinal. It’s perspective. It is what you chose to focus on. What are you looking at? Where is your vision? What are you letting define you?

Slavery is tangible – in Ephesus, in the South, in the Middle East, and globally – the physical human bondage is real and oppressive. And yet how many live in emotional bondage; addiction, depression, submission to something other than God (money, fame, title, image, etc.)?

This does not excuse the wrongs of slavery. Nor does this imply people should just accept where they are and look for the bright side. But it does suggest that our ability to see beyond where we are is a choice. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is available anywhere.

If you listen to the words of the gospel songs from slavery you will find this resounding resilience coupled with a vision of something better than where they were. It was a trust in God – their deliver, their hope and their vision of freedom.

Or read the Psalms – the heart cry of David (and others). Here was a man told the kingdom would be his, only to spend 16 years on the run from the current king who wanted to kill him. He had opportunities to kill the king, but did not because it was not his place. He cried out to God in the wilderness, he submitted his circumstances to God’s hands. He was patient for his promise, in the midst of persecution, war, hatred and time. Yet he submitted – again and again – and held all he had with hands wide open before the Lord.

His greatest sin – adultery and murder – came when he let his sin compound and started to pursue his own desire. He is a great reminder that submission is not a once time action. It truly is a momentary release of control. Next week we will get into how submission affects us as individuals and why it is truly the way to freedom.

What are your reactions to the idea of submission? 

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© Amanda Lunday