What does surrender to God look like? 2

Another account which gives a different perspective on this experience of surrendering to God is given by Harry Williams in his autobiography Some Day I’ll Find You.

After his breakdown and getting rid of what he calls his ‘former persecuting moralism… that old deceiver’ Williams is filled with a sense of dissatisfaction. This is also a feeling of emptiness. He wonders initially if it about being on his own but remembers a deeper more cosmic sense of loneliness and emptiness of not being part of the beauty of the world. This experience he had had some time earlier and he describes a winter’s morning where Regents Park was ‘looking supremely beautiful’ with an ‘unaccustomed stillness’ and ‘the sun a combination of gold and red – suffused the air…’ it was he says blessedness and love but it aroused a sharp sense of anguish and despair in him: ‘I wanted to enter the glory around and become part of it, to become the beauty I saw so that I could share its bliss.’ Instead he felt excluded, an outsider; he could only behold without being able to become and so in that way it felt like a dispossession.

Following recovery from mental collapse and aware of this ongoing sense of loneliness Williams had some experiences that were the exact opposite of the Regents Park time. They were not so intense or sharp but were experiences where in letting go – not self-consciously – rather it just seem to happen he became part of where he was – which he experienced as a union with the elements. He describes swimming in the sea in the warm Mediterranean: ‘It was an experience of union with the natural world… I felt perfectly at ease with my surroundings, shore as well as sea, and said to myself: “Whatever life holds for you, nothing can take away the bliss of this moment.”’

He analyses whether this sense of surrender into oneness is evolutionary, or psychological or mystical and then wonders why we have to always differentiate it and choose. Why shouldn’t all three be right? This then becomes an insight into the interrelatedness of existence which lies behind the complexity of existence. Williams also struggles with whether such experiences are all to do with projection of one’s own state of mind but he sees that view as leading nowhere.

What I had experienced was a meeting between myself and some other which was alive, an other which in the park had somehow refused to welcome me. While in the sea it had greeted me with open arms. But this other which was alive couldn’t be merely earth, vegetation and salt water. These things … were rather the transmitters of a living reality which they embodied and revealed, but which they didn’t monopolize, since the reality stretched infinitely beyond them.

Thinking of the positive surrender in the sea Williams knew that the sea charmed and comforted him, as perhaps he had known in the security of the womb. But that that knowledge didn’t exclude the more important truth which is that the sea was also the sacrament of God’s encompassing presence … the two things were related as the lesser psychological truth reflected the greater while the greater gave to the lesser its full significance.