..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Dictionary of Devotion: Abandonment

Abandonment. Or more properly, self-abandonment.
Abandonment to God. Abandonment of self. In a
world that advocates finding "our self", and
"self-actualization" let us look at the wise
but unpopular idea of abandoning our self to God.

Please see the various nuances and etymology of the
word abandon here.

The idea of abandonment to God means a giving up
of my rights to "my" life and placing all rights in God's
most capable hands. It contains the idea of "the intent
of never again asserting or claiming an interest in" my
self interests. It also contains the idea that my
confidence in myself and my ability to complete the
task of perfectly doing God's will is completely

Abandonment is a deserting of allegiance to myself
in order to give my allegiance entirely to God. It is
yielding myself completely and ceasing to continue
acting from my own strength or ability. Easier said
than done!

The self clings tenaciously to all that it views
as important to its preservation. It may even view the
well-intentioned approach of God as a threat. Like
drowning men, we want deliverance, but in our own
desperation may try and fight the One coming to
our aid.

We need both abandonment from ourselves, and
abandonment to God. We all know that we can drive
ourselves mad living with ourselves--Hollywood, as
well as our own lives, shows us that, on screen and
off. Yet it is not enough to be simply disgusted with
my own life. I must ask God to take over my life
without reservation. His shall not be a robotic
control, and frankly, we might be tempted to think
that this kind of control would be easier! How many
people do I hear, crying out in a rather desperate
tone, "God, just do it!" Amen to that, but how does
God go about "just doing it?"

Francis Fenelon and Jeanne Guyon
give us this insight:

"Here is true self-abandonment; it is this
spirit of self-divesting, [looking] with a single
eye to the movements of God, who alone is the
true overseer of his creatures.

You will desire to know, probably, what should be
the practice of this renouncement in detail. But I
answer that the feeling is no sooner established in
the interior of the soul, than God himself will take
you by the hand, that you may be exercised in
self-renunciation in every event of every day.

Self-abandonment is not accomplished by means of
painful reflections and continual struggles; it is
only by refraining from self-contemplation, and from
desiring to master ourselves in our own way, that we
lose ourselves in God."

These wise folk are telling us that there is no
formula: we abandon ourselves to God moment by
moment, looking not to our own ways, but watching
Him. He will take us by the hand and leads us.

Why do we so resist?

We want help but first we must lose control. Losing
control is both ridiculously easy and immensely
difficult. Many people lose control most weekends if
not daily: they lose control to drugs, alcohol, sexual
addictions, etc. But why are they not willing to
lose control to God, the source of all life and

It is only as I come to know the love of God that
I am really able to abandon myself to Him. This
knowing must be more than mental or I won't
get too far because the waves of my inward and
outward life are too scary. I must know the love
of God deep within me and continually stir myself up
toward Him. Consider this hymn by Charles Wesley:

"Eager for thee, I ask, I pant,
So strong the principle divine
Carries me out with sweet constraint,
Till all my hallowed soul is thine:
Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea,
And lost in thy immensity."

"Come, Lord, and claim me for thine own;
Savior, thy right assert;
Come, gracious Lord, set up thy throne,
And reign within my heart.

"The day of thy great power I feel,
And pant for liberty;
I loathe myself, deny my will,
And give up all to thee.

"I hate my sins, no longer mine,
For I renounce them, too;
My weakness with thy strength I join;
Thy strength shall all subdue.

"So shall I bless thy pleasing sway,
And, sitting at thy feet,
Thy laws with all my heart obey,
With all my soul submit."
--Charles Wesley

It is God's love for us, and that Love flowing
through us back to Him that will bring us to
an easy abandonment. It is nothing that we can
do but only something that we can allow and
allow unreservedly. Oswald Chambers says this:

"Abandonment never produces the consciousness
of its own effort, because the whole life is
taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware
of talking about abandonment if you know nothing
about it, and you will never know anything about
it until you have realized that John 3:16 means
that God gave Himself absolutely. In our
abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as
God gave Himself for us, without any calculation.
The consequence of abandonment never enters into

our outlook because our life is taken up with Him."
--Oswald Chambers, The Abandonment of God

I will say only a little more because Chambers
warns me to only talk about abandonment to God
as much as I know it! :) I will say, as
would Chambers I am sure, that my experience
with abandonment to God has been both life-defining
(my life in God) and life-threatening (my self life).

Abandonment to God takes me to a place that
I cannot reach being isolated, contained,
little old "me." These are expansive experiences
with the very nature of God, no more limiting
than one could consider sinking down into a
deep, hot bath at the end of a long day
to be considered limiting. The only difference
would be the living water of God's ability to
suck you under until you don't live in Kansas
any longer! :) But really, would that be
such a bad change? Come on, a new life
awaits you!

Please join me in praying this classic prayer
of abandonment by Charles de Foucald:

Father, I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you Lord,and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,and with boundless confidence,

For you are my Father.

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