2 min read


Sometimes we have no choice but to surrender.

Bending back against
The elements
I resist the storm.
Nothing finds purchase.
Nothing adheres here.
And so, when limbs tire
And all energy is spent
I must surrender
To You—You, who were here
At the very start of this.
To your embrace.
To my betrothal.

You pick me up and lay me
On the rack and stretch
Sinew from bone
And render me
Into parts—
Heart and spleen and liver—
Arranging them on rock and dirt
As offerings.

I cry for the sun
To cure my bones
Until I am No Thing.
But You—You tenderly
Pick me up and lay me
On the rack again to see
What more I might endure.

Wordless, without strength or faith
I hold you tighter still—
Not with expectation of mercy.
I am yours. Take me where you will.

Sometimes, we must take down the sail, pull up the rudder, and abandon ourselves to the storm—not because we have given up on life, but because there is nothing else to be done. Sometimes, events overwhelm us.

Grief overwhelms us. The pain of grief seizes us. It takes possession of the whole of us—mind, body, spirit—not once, but again and again and again until we lack the strength even to whisper no more. It confronts us. It unmakes us, until we are fully exposed to the world—fully vulnerable. We must surrender ourselves to it. We have no choice in the matter.

I have learned that recovery also demands a kind of surrender. In recovery, we abandon whatever lies we have been telling ourselves to justify our self-destructive habits. We hit rock bottom, and there find we have no choice but to make an honest appraisal of ourselves—our failings, our weaknesses, our flaws, our hidden shame. We speak the words: I am a user. I am an alcoholic. I am an addict. We speak them to ourselves and we speak them to others.

And then? Then comes the miracle of grace. Without our asking for them, hands appear to help us up and hold us. Hearts open to us. Family, friends and neighbors offer to support us, sharing in our pain and suffering. The human community reveals itself to us as a spiritual blessing.

I felt my courage failing as I confronted my topic this week. And then I read this passage from Martin Buber's I and Thou. I think Buber is talking about art here as something that everyone has in them; as something we all create; as something we must engage with if we are to be fully human; as something that can show up in many different ways—as words and music and painting, but also through the work we do and the relationships we hold dear. This, too, seems to require a surrender of sorts.

This is the eternal origin of art that a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through him. Not a figment of his soul but something that appears to the soul and demands the soul's creative power. What is required is a deed that a man does with his whole being: if he commits it and speaks with his being the basic word to the form that appears, then the creative power is released, and the work comes into being.

Each week I explore a word that has touched my heart. Subscribe to get my newsletter every Sunday morning. You can also follow me on Medium, or on LinkedIn. Feel free to forward this to a friend, colleague, or loved one, or anyone you think might benefit from reading it.