The Discipline of Submission to the Triune God
Written By Gabriel Coyle
“Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, All I have and call my own.
“You have given it all to me. To you Lord I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”
– Ignatius of Loyola
There are two rules you learn quickly in any healthy relationship. The first is that relationships require compromise; no one party gets what they want all the time. The second rule is that words like “never” and “always” are never appropriate and always lead to oversimplification.
Then we step into the Biblical world and quickly realize that a healthy relationship with God breaks both rules. When it comes to God, no matter what He asks or commands of us, there is only one response that is always appropriate: “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
This narrow path touches every facet of our lives; our thoughts, relationships, grand hopes, trivial tasks, deep motivations, loves, hates, and even the means we engage to forward His purposes.
Any conversation on the spiritual discipline of submission must start with our absolute surrender to the Triune God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in the way of the Son for the glory of the Father. At times this feels like a cross (Matthew 16:24-26), and at other times a yoke (Matthew 11:28-30), but always submission to a King that paradoxically slays and conjures new life.
In submission to an all-knowing, all-good God, we are “laying down the terrible burden of always needing to have our own way” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline). Submission to Him is chemo to the cancer of independence and surgery to eradicate our pride. This liberation has life-giving effects, building capacity for trust and honorable dependence in daily life.
Only when we are practicing submission to God in whatever He commands will we ever be able to practice true self-denial in other relationships.
It begins early in the morning quietly praying in surrender like the Psalmists of old, “This earth is yours Lord, and the fulness thereof…” (Psalm 24:1), and it ends with laying down one’s life in evening surrender, trusting that God will carry you through the darkest night.
But whatever else submission to God involves, it must always involve an uncompromising “Yes” to God’s call on our lives and His Kingdom agenda. Our lives are an embodiment of Thomas á Kempis’ prayer, “As thou wilt; what thou wilt; when thou wilt.” Jesus modeled this in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we do so holding fast to the testimony of God’s faithfulness in an empty tomb (Luke 24:12).
Submission to our Triune God slays what kills and conjures new life within us. May we join Jude, Jesus’ half-brother, and consider it an honor to be called a servant of “our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).