Belly Rubs: Submission and Vulnerability

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From Emma Liddle 

From our church’s prayer for leadership:

Jesus, I invite you to do as you please here in my life for you have my best interests at heart.

Keep, change, add, prune:  Lead me Lord Jesus.

On Sunday, when Vince had us all stand up and read aloud the prayer of leadership for our church and for ourselves, I did it, but I felt a little bit uncomfortable. Mainly, I was uncomfortable with the whole: “God, you have my best interests in mind, and I give myself over to you to change, add, or remove the things you need to take care of.”

That prayer is full of big implications, mainly because God isn’t a vending machine full of candy; when I say: “God, I submit to your leadership; you want what’s best for me,” I’ve found that what happens next usually is upsetting or disruptive to my life. I’ve started to think that what God wants, and what is best for me in my life, and what I am comfortable with, what I think is best for my life, and what I want are not really one and the same. When I say: “God, you have my best interests, and you want to give me what’s best,” that may involve some pain, uncertainty, discomfort. In fact, in the past five years or so, I’d say that is exactly what has happened to me. A lot of cutting, some adding, a lot of hurt.

This isn’t to say that what God wants isn’t for my best interest. But for a lot of my more recent experiences, it’s been about instability, vulnerability, uncertainty. And I know a lot of other people who are in the same boat: they’re following God, they’re submitting to Him, but as a result, they’re experiencing a lot of hardships.

Because when you submit to God’s leadership, you make yourself vulnerable to change and possibility.

I think a pretty good analogy for this would be the ways dogs submit. In my experience, for the many different dogs I’ve owned (and even a few cats), the way they show they are in complete submission to me is by rolling over onto their backs and showing their bellies. My dog Dori does this often in the mornings, almost like a greeting, wagging her tail a little bit.

But when a dog does this, it’s taking a chance. It’s expressing loyalty and affection, but this is a very vulnerable position for it to be in. But there is a pay off: belly rubs from the owner (hopefully).

This interaction between God and us is probably a bit more complicated, unfortunately. You may find yourself in a submissive posture for a long time without the pay off. And that sucks. It is not fun to struggle, or suffer, or wait.

But here’s the flip slide: unless the dog is laying on its back in submission, it can’t get those belly rubs. It must submit first to the owner to get that pay off.

So we need to trust that our submission to God is not only a good thing to do, but a necessary thing to partake in the good things God has in store for us. We acknowledge that God’s vision for our lives is bigger than us and our vision, and we submit ourselves to Him, even if this means some vulnerability and discomfort as God makes the changes necessary for us to get there.

And we lift our prayers and submit to God:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21

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