Living a life of surrender is something often easier said than done. Rebekah Lyons understand this well, and recently spoke with RELEVANT about her devotional book A Surrendered Yes, which explores how we can willingly surrender to the various steps God calls us to take. You can listen to her interview on the RELEVANT podcast or read the interview below.
Editor’s note: This interview has be edited for length and clarity.
What exactly is a surrendered yes, as opposed to an unsurrendered yes?
Well, a surrendered yes is just letting go of your plans — your idea of life never looks as planned. But the surrender is being willing to do that with the understanding that there’s something you can’t see. There’s something you’re journeying into. A lot of times surrenders are just letting go of what you expected, but then the yes is an invitation to do something that you might have been hesitant to do or afraid to do. You felt a nudge from God, a prompt, something that you can’t shake.
I kind of call it like sand in your shoe. It’s irritating, but it comes back around every few months, maybe every few years. It can be a bigger thing — maybe it’s growing your family, moving across the country, a shift in your career. But it can also be an everyday surrendered yes that looks just like I’m going to choose gratitude no matter how hard the circumstances look right now or I’m going to lean into a difficult conversation that I’d rather avoid. Partly, the surrender and the yes is that we know that it’s for our good, so we don’t shrink back or avoid or escape, even if it’s going to make us uncomfortable or we’re nervous about the outcome. We trust that it’s still the right thing to do.
How did you get to this place where you learned to say a surrendered yes in your life?
All along the way, we say yes to things we don’t really want to. As kids, it’s just part of life: You get in line, you obey the rules, you do the right thing. And you can obviously get rebellious against that. Certainly, I’ve had that season too, where I just seem like, “No, I’m not going to do that.” That’s a resistant no, not a surrendered yes. I’ve lived in all those ways and I think most of us have if we’re honest.
The most paramount thing that shifted my posture towards God of just trusting His sovereignty in places I couldn’t see was when we had our first born son, Cade. I was 26 and we found out six hours after he was born he had a Down syndrome diagnosis. I had had testing that would have indicated otherwise, and it just caught me off guard. I was unprepared for that. And yet you surrender to it. You love your child. You want to learn everything you can. I just felt very ill equipped and didn’t know what I didn’t even know.
I would say 20 years later, I still don’t know what I don’t know. I think the goal and the peace is that whatever our journey looks like, God doesn’t leave us. He gives us the grace and the strength and the peace to keep going. In so many ways, I would say a surrendered yes is a lot like endurance. Even in this day of COVID and quarantine and viruses and sickness, we’ve had to surrender a lot of areas of our life — whether it’s our health or our future, our relationships, our identity and dreams.
In my journey of mental health for the last 11 years, starting with panic disorder, some anxiety, depression, and then now walking the healing journey of rhythms, I’ve learned that the more we resist, the worse it hurts. The more torment we almost put ourselves through versus the more we live a posture of acceptance and surrender an open handedness to going. I didn’t ask for this, but I trust that You are gonna be my guide and my peace and my help and my strength as I walk forward. I want to grow from it. Scripture so clearly talks about that: When you face trial there’s going to be some testing attached to that and it’s going to produce character, and character produces hope. And if we don’t have hope, we don’t have a whole lot to offer no matter what the circumstances are. And I want to be a person who has faced hard, who has seen God move, and where that pain can become purpose.
But that’s one version of a yes. That doesn’t mean that’s everyone’s yes. I do think when we take circumstances we may have not chosen and we then turn those for good to help encourage other people who might be walking through something similar. And that’s the point, that we’re not overcome by hard things, but we grow through them. We surrender to them, we grow through them, and then we help encourage others to do the same.
One of the things I think so many people struggle with is understanding that saying no to something can be a version of saying yes. But that can be really hard for people who struggle with telling someone no. Do you have any advice for people that just want to say yes to everything, even if it’s not necessarily right?
I think our yes is always about the motives behind them. If we’re saying yes to something, because we really couldn’t care less about doing it, we don’t want to do it. We’re doing it because we feel shame. I also think some people will say no because they just don’t want to do the effort. They actually know it’s something they should be doing, but they don’t want to put the time in. They don’t want to do the work. And that’s not a healthy no — that’s a no of avoidance and escapism.
What we really should be doing is asking ourselves what are the motives? What are the outcomes of that yes or that no? If the outcome of that yes or that no is going to produce greater love and joy and peace and strength and grace in my life and in the ones and those around me, then that’s a healthy yes or a healthy no. And I think we have to really be honest with ourselves. Are we running from pain? Are we avoiding? Are we working toward healing and growth?
And sometimes you need somebody else to help you process that you know. If I’m honest, I can admit when I don’t want to do this or I feel like quitting. And there are times when people will ask me to play that out. “So what if you did? What if you quit that? what would be the outcome? What is the outcome you’re trying to look for?” And I think this whole conversation just requires a lot of reflection and honesty — whether it’s with a friend, whether it’s with God — but real vulnerability in the yes and then no. At some point we do let God be in charge of our relationships and we trust that if people want to walk away, we let them. We’re not forcing anything, but there’s also a grace in letting go, too. Letting go for me is a very practical way to say no. If I’m trying to keep something going that is clearly not producing fruit of peace and love and joy in me and those around me, then there’s a strong chance that I’m hanging on to something that God has said I need to release.
I just think it’s really good to be honest before the Lord consistently and before our community of trusted few friends, and also be nimble. Be nimble in what life looks like. What your cadence and your rhythms for that season looks like. Be nimble in how you spend your time. If obedience is asking surrender, because it really is producing growth, then make sure you hang in there for that as well.