The following is a sample of the weekly exercises in the forthcoming Tin Soldiers Workbook. Each exercise accompanies and is based upon each individual entry in The Tin Soldiers book, which together form a 52-week curriculum aimed at spiritual growth via small group discussion and individual reflection…
What is a Tin Soldier?, Part IV
You must follow through by making righteous character your highest priority in life. For many of us, even those who have been believers for a long time, this is uncharted territory. The truth is, few of us have surrendered completely. And therefore, few of us have become who we are meant to be. – p 13
I remember the first time I was bullied. It was during recess on the opening day of second grade. The bully ambushed me around a corner of the schoolyard, away from the sightline of my teacher. Before I could react and defend myself, he twisted my arm behind my back and forced me to the ground. His buddies were cheering him on as I yelled impotent threats, my face in the grass, wincing in pain. He laughed, saying he would let go if I just gave up and told him, audibly, that he was the “king of the class.”
He was a real-life Scut Farkas, and I was Ralphie.
After a few more minutes of struggling and pain, I finally had to do what he said. Amidst the jeers of my peers I relinquished a good deal of my then prepubescent manhood. It was one of the most humiliating, grotesque moments of my existence, and I vowed to never, ever do something like it again.
Most of us have experienced a situation where we were forced to submit to someone who is in a position of power over us in a humiliating manner, beit a boss, a coach, or another authority figure. These experiences have shaped our definition of the term “surrender.” So when we hear this word in the context of faith, many of us are naturally repulsed by the concept, if we are honest. But is this the type of concession Jesus requires from us in order to engage in a life of true faith? Does he really want to emasculate us like a schoolyard tyrant? I don’t think so.
Surrender, in reality, does not involve shaming, giving up your self-esteem, or sacrificing your manhood. Rather, it is an acceptance that God is sovereign. It is an admittance that every life circumstance is an opportunity to be modified for the better, molded into His image.
God is not an oppressor, a bully, or a figure that wants to make us feel small. He doesn’t want to humiliate us. Though we may pale in comparison to him, his goal is not to make us feel bad about ourselves for laying down to him. His goal is to make us better versions of ourselves so we can hold our heads high, not in vanity, but in purity of motive and action.
Weakness and surrender are not synonymous in this realm. To surrender is to simply make becoming like Jesus your top goal in life. Surrender to God requires great courage, and will become our biggest source of strength as He changes us into the type of men he desires us to become.
Read James 4:10: Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Recall a time when you surrendered to something or someone other than God. How did it make you feel? How do you think that experience shaped how you view surrender?
What is it that scares you about completely relinquishing your life to Jesus? What are you afraid of losing? List those things here.
What do you think you will get in return for surrendering to Jesus? Write down His promises and compare them to your potential losses. How do those two lists compare?
A life of complete surrender is mapped out not in weeks or months or years, but in moments. Make three columns on a piece of paper, one labeled “selfish,” one labeled “selfless,” and one labeled “grey.” Take note of the small decisions of will—moral and spiritual crossroads—you face for the next twenty-four hours. Be conscious of your choices (especially the small ones) down to the websites you visit, the images you fill your mind with, the ways you treat the people around you. Most of all, take note of the motives of your heart in these transactions. Every time you make a decision, make a mark in the appropriate category. When the day ends, take a look at your three columns. If this exercise betrays a need for marked growth, don’t worry. That is the point. Now you know how badly you need divine intervention in your life in order to become a man of integrity, charity, selflessness, and purpose. Now you know how badly you need to surrender completely…
The new edition of The Tin Soldiers is coming soon, along with The Tin Soldiers Workbook. In the meantime, grab a copy of The Tin Soldiers as an ebook here or wherever ebooks are sold.