Life is a funny business. The more we think we have it figured out, the more mysterious it gets. Like some fine magician, it makes us marvel at its ability to pull off unimaginable tricks. It so happens though that not all its surprises are adorable. Some can be downright cruel. And it is when life delivers an unexpected blow that your inner strength is put to test. It is at that time that life summons faith and surrender in the court of divine law to see if they will stand by you.
Does faith mean that we will tame life? That we’ll dictate the terms? How dearly everyone wishes it but that’s not at all what faith or surrender have to offer. Why bother surrendering or praying to a God who can’t fix our problems then? Let me share a beautiful story from the epic Ramayana.
Rama and Lakshmana were wandering through the deep woods in search of Ma Sita. They came across a serene and inviting pool of water dotted by shrubs of fragrant flowers. Lakshmana suggested that they bathe in the pool and rest for a wee bit. The tall and handsome Rama took off his bow from his sculpted shoulders and plonked it on the soft ground. Hanging their quivers on their bows, they entered the pond to soothe their tired limbs. Lakshmana fetched delicious berries from a nearby tree.
A little while later they dried their bodies and got ready to leave. Just when Rama lifted his bow, he heard the faint croak of a frog. He looked down and saw that a small frog lay injured at the spot where his bow had been resting. Overcome with compassion, he instantly picked the frog in his gentle palms.
“Why didn’t you let out even a scream, O little one?” Rama said. “Why didn’t you call for help when my bow hit you?”
The frog chuckled in pain, and said, “You are my savior, Rama! The whole world calls out to you when they are hurt but who is left to look up to when you decide to hurt someone.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” Rama spoke like an ordinary mortal. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“But, I’m very happy, my lord,” the frog said.
Both Rama and Lakshmana looked at the little creature with intrigue. After all, what was there to be happy about?
“The only thing sweeter than dying by your hands, Rama,” the frog continued, “is to die in your hands. How lucky I am that I’m in your hands while I breathe my last.”
When I’d first read this story, I was deeply touched. I thought it so beautifully captured the essence of faith. Isn’t this what surrender is about anyway? That there are things outside my control and that I agree to let Nature or God handle those elements for me. Surrender or faith certainly does not mean that no harm will befall us or that everything will work out the way we envisage. It simply means we accept the fact that there are numerous things we don’t understand in the intricate workings of nature and we are fine with it.
As a frog, I may not foresee or avoid a mighty bow landing on my back and breaking my bones but it can’t break my spirit, my faith, my surrender. The desireless God certainly wouldn’t desire anyone’s faith or wealth. So, surrender is not to please any God. It is simply to strengthen and purify ourselves. It is to lead a life of love and humility. Feelings of love directed at anyone we revere is surrender in a nutshell.
A man was driving on a windy road in the hills when his car toppled over while making a sharp turn. He tumbled out of his car as it was falling into a deep gorge. Most miraculously, on his way down he managed to grab hold of the branch of a tree. The tree was old, thin and weak. With each passing moment, it seemed to be coming away at the roots.
The man called out to God in the greatest fervor. No reply came and the tree was crumbling by the second. Not giving up, he called out again a few times. A few minutes later a roaring voice broke out from the sky.
“Let go of the branch,” the heavenly voice said. “I’ll protect you.”
The man looked down and saw the deep and dark rocky gorge. He saw no chance of survival. He looked heavenwards and hollered, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, let go,” the voice said. “I’m God.”
The man thought for a second and then said, “Is there anyone else up there?”
Somewhere, most of us have made surrender a joke too. We have a notion of how we want to be saved. We challenge, we rebel, we revolt and we question everything when what is happening in our lives is not in line with what we expect. When the help being extended is not what we anticipated we wonder why certain things are happening to us thinking we have never done anything to deserve it. Maybe, maybe. Or, maybe not. It may well be that we have conveniently overlooked our transgressions and spiritual trespasses. Whereas nature never overlooks anything. Never. Mangoes don’t grow on apple trees.
What good is any faith if it shakes in the hour of crisis? Anyone can have surrender or be a believer when all is well. It’s when the going gets tough that we really find out how tough our surrender really is. Surrender is not a tradable item. It’s not something in lieu of anything. It is just an expression of gratitude, a way to express our love to the Divine.
Surrender is the antidote to suffering beyond our control.
If you wish to discover the beautiful pearls of life, you had better hold on to the anchor of faith. Because, sooner or later, life will take you for a deep dive into the choppy ocean of adversity. As they say, “No one is a virgin. Life screws us all.” It does, everybody.