Have you ever thought about the word “yield?” If you’re a farmer or you watch the stock market, you’re certainly familiar with the concept of yield as in to produce, or “to give in return for labor or as profit” (see https://av1611.com/kjbp/kjv-dictionary/yield.html). For example, the land might yield 150 bushels of corn per acre. The other primary meaning of yield is to surrender, submit, give way or comply. If you drive a car, you surely have yielded to other motorists merging into traffic—at least I hope so!
As a certifiable “word nerd,” I find this double meaning intriguing when put in a spiritual context. How are giving and giving up, producing and surrendering, connected to each other in our life of faith?
Yielding in the sense of submitting isn’t a popular concept in mainstream, secular American culture. Truth be told, it doesn’t seem to be a driving force among most American Christians either. We’re much more interested in the capitalistic/individualistic aspect of yield—getting more or getting our way—than in giving way to God or to others.
But some Christians take the idea of compliance and surrender to heart. One cornerstone value of Amish and Mennonite neighbors here in Wisconsin is Gelassenheit (pronounced Ge-las-en-hite). Translated roughly from the German, it means submission to a higher authority. In daily life, it entails resignation to God’s will, self-denial, obedience, a quiet spirit and putting the needs of others above self. Anabaptist children learn the essence of Gelassenheit from an early age through sayings such as “I must be a Christian child, / Gentle, patient, meek, and mild, / Must be honest, simple, true, / I must cheerfully obey, / Giving up my will and way.”
In his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis calls each of us to ecological conversion—a change of heart and mind that takes seriously our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork. It is an invitation to change our relationship with nature, all other non-human creatures and our human neighbors, especially the poor and marginalized. The Holy Father explains how we must become willing to yield some of our comfort, privilege and plans to afford others what they need just to survive. “This conversion calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care . . . a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works . . . An ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems and in offering ourselves to God ‘as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable’ (Rom 12:1)” (Laudato Si 220). It seems like the act of surrendering and the act of producing go hand-in-hand.
Next time you’re out on the road and you see the familiar, triangular red-and-white sign, ask yourself, “What do I need to relinquish to become the rich soil that yields one hundred, sixty or thirty-fold?” (See Matthew 13:23)
Peace and All Good to you!