April 9, 2015

Submit therefore to God…Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:7, 8

Today is a day of surrender at Appomattox.

One hundred and fifty years ago Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee capitulated to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at McLean House in Appomattox, Virginia. My daughter is there, and she says it’s crowded. There’s a slew of activity at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park—historical narration of the happenings on that important day so long ago, signings by authors of Civil War history books, demonstrations of Civil War era photography and a reenactment of the surrender. This evening there will be lantern tours of the historic village. Commemorative events continue through the 19th (see the schedule here).

Most people focus on the village when they visit Appomattox Court House NHP. It’s largely a self-guided park—cars aren’t allowed, so you must explore on foot. Two different videos are shown at the visitor center, and exhibits include original artifacts associated with the surrender. Living history talks are often presented by actors portraying people who were there in 1865, so while it’s fun to be there on the actual date, you can still get a good feel for what went on no matter when you go.

Here’s what has to say about surrender: “Surrender is a battle term. It implies giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an opposing army surrenders, [the soldiers] lay down their arms, and the winners take control from then on.

“Surrendering to God works the same way. God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans and eagerly seek His. The good news is that God’s plan for us is always in our best interest (Jeremiah 29:11), unlike our own plans that often lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Our Lord is a wise and beneficent victor; He conquers us to bless us [1 Peter 5:6].

“There are different levels of surrender, all of which affect our relationship with God. Initial surrender to the drawing of the Holy Spirit leads to salvation (John 6:44, Acts 2:21). When we let go of our own attempts to earn God’s favor and rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we become a child of God (John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

“But there are times of greater surrender during a Christian’s life that bring deeper intimacy with God and greater power in service. The more areas of our lives we surrender to Him, the more room there is for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we exhibit traits of His character (Galatians 5:22). The more we surrender to God, the more our old self-worshiping nature is replaced with one that resembles Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“Romans 6:13 says that God demands that we surrender the totality of our selves; He wants the whole, not a part: ‘Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.’ Jesus said that His followers must deny themselves (Mark 8:34)—another call to surrender.

“The goal of the Christian life can be summed up by Galatians 2:20: ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ Such a life of surrender is pleasing to God, results in the greatest human fulfillment, and will reap ultimate rewards in heaven (Luke 6:22-23).”

The Confederates and Gen. Lee weren’t happy to give up. They fought right to the end—Private Jesse H. Hutchins joined the Confederate Army in the first days of the Civil War, served in almost every major battle in the East, and was shot and killed in a skirmish very near Appomattox just hours before Lee surrendered (his grave is in the Confederate cemetery there). But Lee’s troops were worn, weary and desperate. “There is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant,” Lee admitted, “and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”

And yet I imagine there was a sense of relief as well. No more battles—just going home. Rest at last from the misery and pain of war.

Surrender to God also involves those same two emotions. It’s tough to relinquish our rights to live as we please and yield instead to God’s will. But oh, the release! When we finally come to the end of ourselves and realize we can’t always fix our circumstances and problems, when we’re tired of fighting the constant inner battle between doing what’s right and best and our self-centered desires, then there’s freedom in admitting, “I give up. I can’t keep on the way I’ve been going. I’m tired. There’s nothing left for me to do but go to You. You take over, Lord.”

Gen. Grant was gracious in his terms of surrender–no mass imprisonments or executions, no parading of defeated enemies. As President Lincoln had concluded in his second inaugural address a little over a month earlier, the goal was to “bind up the nation’s wounds [and] achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace,” rather than exact vengeance.

Our General offers the same terms. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you;not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

All to Jesus I surrender,

All to Him I freely give;

I will ever love and trust Him,

In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,

I surrender all;

All to Thee, my blessed Savior,

I surrender all.


  1. Sara says:

    In the process of dealing with something so much bigger than I could ever handle on my own, there has been a steady surrender of self, plans, appearances, certainty, pride, sense of control.

    It is oddly freeing, as you point out, to know that surrender is inevitable, that God is present always, and that he truly knows our needs. The beauty of failure, surrender and acceptance is knowing it’s all God’s work.

  2. Penny says:

    I know what you’re dealing with, Sara, and I’m so glad God is helping you surrender–AND find beauty in it.

Leave a Reply