The Meaning of “Yield”

Corn and Spider WebIn Anam Cara, John O’Donohue poignantly describes examples from nature that illustrate how yielding brings shelter, belonging, and protection. He begins by painting a picture of a field of corn in Autumn:

“When the wind catches the corn, it does not stand stiff and direct against the force of the wind; were it to do this, the wind would rip it asunder. No. The corn weaves with the wind, it bends low. And when the wind is gone, it weaves back and finds its own poise and balance again. There is also the lovely story of the wolf-spider, which never builds its web between two hard objects like two stones. If it did this, the web would be rent by the wind. Instinctively, it builds its web between two blades of grass. When the wind comes, the web lowers with the grass until the wind has passed, then it comes back up and finds its point of balance and equilibrium again” (p.102-103).

I’ve been thinking recently about how the different definitions of the word “yield” are interconnected. To yield, of course, means “to surrender” and “to submit,” but it also refers to the process of cultivation and harvest. To walk with God means to yield our will to His; “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yielding is clearly for our good and His glory, but we still have to grapple with the fact that it is linked to suffering. In The Art of Happiness, Howard Cutler explains that in Western Society, “as suffering becomes less visible, it is no longer seen as part of the fundamental nature of human beings – but rather as an anomaly, a sign that something has gone terribly wrong, a sign of ‘failure’ of some system, an infringement on our guaranteed right to happiness!” (p. 121). As Cutler indicates, it is foolish to go through life thinking that we can avoid all suffering. On the other hand, prioritizing the virtue of yielding to God’s will does not mean that we seek suffering. Avoiding each of these extremes is the key to having healthy expectations of the suffering that life entails.

Choosing to crucify the flesh by yielding one’s will to God’s seems foolish to those who don’t know Him. Even for those who do, it is still a constant struggle. In Pilgrimage of a Soul, Phileena Heuertz tells us that “Decisions that stand in opposition to the status quo are not for the faint-hearted; they require courage, honesty and risk. These kinds of decisions release us into our destiny. Abundant life awaits each of us, but we must die to obtain it” (p. 116). God, Jehovah Jireh, gives us everything we need to walk the path of discipleship. He motivates us with His promises, provides a way out when we are tempted, and empowers us to co-labor with Him. Yielding is not only about sacrifice, it is also about great returns. To yield means “to bear” and “to produce by the natural process of cultivation.” There is an abundant harvest in store for those who yield to God! Psalm 1:3 assures us, “That person [who delights in and meditates on the law of the Lord] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” So let us sit in His presence, wait quietly, and listen. Let us yield and “allow another the right to speak in a debate.” Let us “give as due or required” and relinquish possession of what we cherish most. Let us be gentle with ourselves as we learn to surrender completely and submit to Him alone.