about freedom, God’s will & allienation

The song was written more than a century ago.

In a world very different from the one in which it was being sung this morning.

They sang the verses, with the refrain and then they sort of got stuck on the refrain.


And over.

And over again.

Many had their arms in the air.

Their hands open, their eyes closed.

They were singing it softly.

Then, as the musicians on the stage increased the volume and intensity, they would sing louder, as if with greater conviction.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.



Open hands high above them close into fists, as if they are grabbing onto something.

Their bodies sway rhythmically in perfect tune with the music.

It is the deep, very powerful climax to an intensely emotional time.

Outside the sun is shining.

A beautiful, warm autumn morning.

In here natural light is absent.

On the screens soft pastel colors explode in waves, perfectly synchronized with the music.

The chant becomes softer.

The speaker, who spoke on ‘living a surrendered life’ – his voice mingles with the music.

‘We surrender all’ he whispers.

They’re not singing anymore.

They hands are still held high.

Their bodies are still responding to the music.

‘All to thee, our blessed saviour’, he says.

‘We surrender all.’

The musicians play the refrain once more.

And a last time.

There is a hush.

Some sit down.

As if spent.


Others remain swaying, as if the music is still playing.

There aren’t children in the space.

They were removed early on and along with them the risk that they would spoil this moment with earthly desires like hunger or the need to pee or complaints of tiredness.

Their parents will fetch them.

In a while.

Most linger.

A little while longer.

There isn’t conversation or discussion.

Here a man is kneeling.

Quietly his lips repeat the words of the song.

All to you,Jesus, I surrender all to you;
Humbly at your feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
Take me.
Take me.
Take me now.

A woman starts crying.

At first with mere tears streaking down her face.

Then louder until loud sobs shake her body.

Her arms remain raised above her.

Her hands open.

Her palms pushing upward.

Some come to stand with her.

One puts a hand on her shoulder.

Another puts a hand on her head.

They all mumble the words.

Take her Jesus.
Take her now.
She surrenders, all to thee.
Take her Jesus.
Take her now.

I witness this.

Guilt always lingering just outside my reach, for I’ve not surrendered.

My hands remain at my side.

My eyes open.

My voice quiet.

My heart unmoved, although an emotional rift did pass through me as the music & the voices rose.

No one can withstand such a moment.

I see them starting to come out of it.

They pick up their stuff.

Leather bound bibles.

Louis Vutton handbags.

Car-keys & iPads & smartphones.

They move towards the exit.

The foyer where natural light is allowed.

But muted.

An area of transition.

They move almost reluctantly, as if they are hanging on to a moment they’re not quite ready to let go of.

Wordlessly the space empties out.

All the while the music repeating, now almost unnoticeably: ‘I surrender all, I surrender all; All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

They collect their children.

They get in their cars.

They drive to their homes.

They continue their lives.


To their saviour.

They feel safe.

In the car the silence is perpetuated.

They did not have a child to collect.

Not yet.

Tomorrow they’ll do the procedure.

It is scheduled for 16h15.

It is two weeks prior to her due date, but the doctors advised that it is better this way.

She is expecting triplets.

They didn’t fall pregnant.

So they prayed and went for treatment.

It was tough, but god was good and on the third try it was succesful.

They couldn’t understand why.

Why she couldn’t fall pregnant naturally?

It didn’t have anything to do with the contraceptives they used for almost a decade, from her teenage years, through university and afterwards.

She wanted to get her degree.

She wanted to establish herself in her profession.

The doctors said it was unrelated.

Now they are praying again.

The prayers flow from one experience into the next.

Please god, bless us with a baby. Now. We are ready.

Please god, let everything go well with the cesarean section. Let me come through it unscathed.

Please god, save our child. The weak one with the underdeveloped lungs.

But their god does not save.

The baby dies.

It breaks them.



Expectation & hope unanswered.

Two live.

They spend weeks and a fortune in private healthcare.

They come home.

She is tired.

All the time.

The babies cry.


When she returns to work, dropping the two month old babies off at daycare, she feels some relief.

She can handle budgets & meetings.

When she picks them up at dusk, they’re bathed & fed.

She puts them to bed.

To wake them at six.

To drop them off.

Then they crawl.

Then they walk.

The daycare makes a video of their first steps.

As they’re driving home she breaks the silence.

‘I want another child.’

‘I’m ready to have a girl.’

‘I’ve read that they can do gender-selection now.’

‘While we were singing, I asked god for a daughter.’

And eventually she has a daughter.

The procedure was succesful, as scheduled.

They all take medication.

She for depression.

The children for attention deficit disorder.

Somehow happiness eludes them.

They are praying now for him to get that promotion.

It will enable them to buy the holiday home.

And send their three children to university.

‘Are you happy?’

He startles her with the question, this morning.

It is unlike him to be so talkative when they drive home.

She lies her head back against the headrest, closes her eyes.

‘I’m not unhappy’, she finally responds.

‘Perhaps that is the most we can hope for.’

The children are teenagers now.

How time flies.

‘Maybe we should’ve had another one’, he ventures.

She frowns.

She never knew he was fond of the children.

He is always so tense, because of work.

‘Too late now,’ she dismisses the issue.

Maybe they could still have another one. But what would the people say of a forty-year old having a baby? Anyway, she is not up to the nappies & the sleep deprivation. Not now.

God gave them three children & for that she is grateful.

If he wanted them to have more they would’ve had them by now.

And they became adults.

They studied.

They found work & married.

They now live in distant places.

They don’t talk much.

He is retired.

She is too.

They are comfortable.

They’re not unhappy.

Or perhaps they are.

What is happiness anyway?

And if this is what god gives them, who are they to argue.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

She sang it this morning.

It was beautiful.

A bit lonely.

He’d stopped coming along a long time ago.

But when they came to stand with her, the tears subsided.

She isn’t unhappy.

Perhaps somewhat disappointed.

In life.


Maybe they should’ve had another one.

Who knows?

They never really consulted God.

They consulted doctors.

Financial advisors.

Educational specialists.

Psychologists & psychiatrists.

Thank god for psychiatrists & modern medicine.

As she drives to her house which once resembled a home, she wonders if God is real.

If he is a person.

If he would’ve answered if she asked him about what he thinks would be best.

She wonders how her life would’ve been.

If she listened less to her culture & her fears & her aspirations.

That would be stupid.

Who lives like that?

She isn’t unhappy.

That’s okay.

It is more than most can say.


6 thoughts on “about freedom, God’s will & allienation

  1. “They collect their children. They get in their cars. They drive to their homes. They continue their lives.” I agree. I do it. I am moved, emotionally, seriously, determined to do life differently. Then “life happens” and I get caught in the turmoil and speed of it all. My only way out is to contemplate more, pray more, be still more.

    Half way through your piece I felt uncomfortable with the generalisations. I don’t really know if people make those kind of choices about family so lightly, so carelessly, so emotionally unhealthily. I can’t assume that.

    • Perhaps we’ve come to accept a ‘division’ in our lives? Perhaps we’re unaware that we’ve been allienated from God, despite our desire expressed in worship? Perhaps we are so much product of our culture & circumstances that we are blinded, unable to even see how we manipulate God into endorsing our will, convincing ourselves that it is his. People make these choices. Every day. They do not think they are ‘careless’. We think we are very sophisticated?

  2. This is thought provoking. How alive and sensitive we may feel in th moment of worship, yet our very purpose which is to live abundantly, goes by page after page with a sort of numbness to life until we realise we are old. Maybe u can write on, what is happiness.

    • i mostly do, Siya, or at least try to. but i’m up for the challenge. perhaps, a hint of what i believe is woven into the story … a stronger connection, more of a dsiconection from culture and environment, a listening heart, beyond what is acceptable in the world in which I live … a readyness to live a bizare life by ‘normal’ standards …

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