“There is a significant difference between submission and resignation.”
I don’t remember the full details of the context, but I will never forget the phrase uttered our dear friend and mentor, Judge Bill McCurine. I believe we were having a college gathering in their home, a chance for brand new believers in the beginning of their spiritual journeys to learn from two seasoned veterans of the faith. I believe someone asked about trusting God with singleness. To be honest, I am thankful I don’t remember the immediate context, because the phrase has led to rich application in nearly every arena of my life.
The Difference Defined
According to the Oxford Dictionary, resignation means, “the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.” In fact, the usage example says “i.e. a shrug of resignation.”
I, along with the rest of the Chick-fil-A loving hordes, sigh in resignation every Sunday when we, like clockwork, have a craving for a sandwich and waffle fries, only to remember it is closed on Sunday.
On the surface, resignation bends the will, changes the schedule, and faces the reality of something unwanted; however, under the surface, at the soul and heart level, it can leave an insidious residue of bitterness, distrust, and frustration. Much like the teenage, “Fine” that is accompanied by huffing, puffing, and foot-stomping, resignation bows but does not fully trust.
Submission, on the other hand, is something altogether different. While they may appear almost identical initially, the degrees of separation between resignation and submission become more evident over time.
Biblical submission is much different than the world’s version which seems often to include force and demonstrations of raw authority and power. The Greek word, hupotasso, translated submit, is a compounding of two words, one meaning “under” and the other meaning “arrangement.” Thus, a biblical definition of submission is to place yourself under God’s arrangement of things, to submit under the Lord’s plan in trusting obedience.
While its outward bowing and releasing of control mirror resignation, its internal source is quite different. Rather than sighing out of inability to change something, it sighs and submits in a trusting way, believing that the heart of God knows and does better than we could ever know or do.
The Difference Experienced
If I am being honest, I my soul has been swinging back and forth between resignation and submission these past few weeks since COVID-19 settled in to stay. If you know me, you know that my Sabbath time on Sundays is my lifeline. Since my oldest was a few weeks old, I have been escaping away to a coffee shop for vital connection with God through His word and prayer and wrestling. As silly as it may seem, the getting away feels like going to a secret place to be alone with the Lord, not as a mother or a women’s ministry director or a wife, just as his desperate daughter.
Another example of my routine being off. I resigned to Sabbath by walking our neighborhood, but I was not happy about it, as evidenced by my pace and posture. A fuming little teapot speed-walking through the neighborhood was I. It was not just the monkey wrench in my treasured Sabbath rhythm, it was all of it. Disinfecting groceries, Zoom phone calls instead of face-to-face gatherings, tight spaces and tighter wallets.
But in that walk, the Lord reminded me that this is not what trusting submission looks like. He began to undo my grumpy heart and remind me of the absolutely proven nature of his love.
The too-much-ness out there,
Draws out ineptness in here.
What busyness used to filter,
Now gathers in latent fear.
Your love blocked all my exits,
Enticing my going soul to stay.
Fleeting flings aren’t enough:
You would have me all the day.
It’s scary to sit so still, so long,
Without demand or distraction.
You want uninsulated intimacy,
The whole of me, not a fraction.
Your blocking love can be trusted,
When the checking seems unchecked,
For You died to unblock life eternal,
Giving abundance for my neglect.
Though chosen, I feel choice-less,
Yet an important choice remains;
Resign in apathy or submit in love.
Your submission my choice trains.
So, stay I must but also shall,
Living within lines You’ve drawn.
Come again You can and will.
Your word is sure as the dawn.
May we learn to submit this season to a trustworthy Father rather than resign in avowed apathy. This too shall pass.
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. Psalm 31: 21.