Surrendering to Freedom: A Conversation with Rebekah Lyons

  • October 5, 2018
  • By: Beth Matheson
Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons thought she was going to be an interior designer, happily spending her days transforming spaces. But Rebekah has found herself on an unexpected path — one where God is working through her to transform hearts and minds.

Recently, she paused in the midst of her busy life to talk with me about unexpected seasons of life, the power of God’s Word and surrendering to joy.

Unexpected Seasons

Seventeen years ago, Gabe and Rebekah’s life took a dramatic turn when they learned that their newborn son, Cade, had Down syndrome.

Remembering the day they received the diagnosis, Rebekah told me that she collapsed. “Something died in me the day Cade was born — a controlled plan for my life,” Rebekah said. “But something was born as well — surrender to an uncharted, forever-changing path.”

As she learned the new paces of mothering a child with special needs, Rebekah realized she could not continue serving on staff at her church while also keeping up with Cade’s therapy schedule: “I knew I couldn’t really give my all to both roles, so I went ahead and decided just to be home full time.

“There were hard days — the house was swollen with silence — and I would just sometimes ask God to be near,” she recalled. “… He did become so near in that season.”

She felt God draw near to her again a decade later when she suddenly developed panic disorder after moving to New York City. Rebekah explained how God met her in those unexpected seasons: “I would say the word for who God was for me in my faith, in both scenarios, was 'rescue.’”

Surrender was a big part of that rescue for Rebekah. As she let go of her sense of control, she felt God telling her, I can’t promise things won’t come against you, or that there aren’t going to be things that break your heart, or there aren’t going to be moments when you feel deeply inadequate. But I am the one who actually comes in and fills in the gaps, and then gives you grace to see things differently.

As her faith and ministry have grown by letting God determine her journey, Rebekah has found freedom in surrender: “The Spirit grows stronger in us by the day if we do live surrendered, if we do obey, if we do submit to his plan, not our own. That’s what these seasons have taught me — that it’s a lot more rewarding to let go.”

A Lifeline

Rebekah can’t talk about surrender without talking about God’s Word.

We passionately discussed how painful times can spark our craving for Scripture. It’s often in the middle of a crisis that we discover how important it is to know the truth. “[Dependence on Scripture] nourishes you,” Rebekah said. “You feast on it.”

Long before Rebekah discovered her love for Scripture, passages were being planted like seeds in her mind as she memorized verses in church.

Having these verses hidden in her memory as a child makes a difference for Rebekah as an adult: “We didn’t understand at the time what they [the verses] meant, but they were in there. I can pull those out on recall all the time … and it’s because I hid those words at a young age without even quite knowing why. And so I’m so grateful for that.”

What began as rote memorization in childhood blossomed into deep hunger for God’s Word during Rebekah’s difficult years in New York.

One morning she awoke with realization of her need for the Bible: “I had all these books on my nightstand [with] ideas, great themes, great topics. But I just looked at that stack and I remember going, ‘God, I don’t know where to begin. There’s just so much information.’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you start in Acts and learn what it means to rebuild my church?’”

With her attention turned back to Scripture, Rebekah couldn’t get enough. “At that point,” she said, “I just really became voracious with the Word.”

She dove into a chronological Bible and was captivated by seeing the Gospels unfold in a linear way, surrounded by context notes that helped her understand why and where things were said, what verses really meant, and how that understanding applied to her life.

Scripture went from being important to Rebekah to becoming her lifeline and delight. “I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much,” she said.

God’s Word has reoriented Rebekah’s priorities and shown her the Lord’s call on her life. “This is why I’m here,” she stated with joyful confidence. “It’s not even really to write books. It’s not just to stand on a stage. It’s just about preaching the gospel at any cost.”

Rebekah’s enthusiasm bubbled over even more as she shared particular passages that have brought her freedom. She began with 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (NLT).

Rebekah reflected on how the verse resonates with her: “We are carriers of light, but we’re fragile. [Because of] the cracks in the jars, the light comes through. It’s actually really beautiful that we’re fragile. We don’t boast in our strength; we boast in our weakness, because [God’s] strength is made evident there, and he gets glory.”

Currently, Rebekah is especially passionate about the book of Ephesians, which emphasizes the power God gives his children.

“We’re in a moment that needs Ephesians because we have got to take authority with the identity we have as sons and daughters,” she stated. “… It’s not out of our own strength, but when we come to know the height, depth, width and breadth of the love of Christ for us, that’s when the spiritual power begins. I think if we can receive that power out of love, then we walk humbly in that power.”

Surrendering to Joy

The lessons in Scripture aren’t just theoretical for Rebekah; they are meant to be lived out. And right now the Lyons family is stepping forward into an invitation to live out the gospel in a special way — opening their hearts and home to a new daughter.

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Rebekah talked about what led to the decision to adopt. “We had a lot of friends that were adopting,” she said, “and it was a conversation that surfaced almost every three years. It was never a really serious one [for our family]. It was just like, ‘Could we? Would we? Maybe? No. Not time.’”

But that all changed the day a friend sent Rebekah a picture of Joy, a beautiful little girl from China. Like Cade, Joy has Down syndrome.

Even while Rebekah was still wrestling with the idea of adoption, her husband began feeling convicted that it was what God wanted them to do. It wasn’t a quick decision, but after much prayer, the Lyons began the process of bringing Joy home.

Once again, Rebekah’s world shifted as she surrendered to God’s better plan.

Her voice was thick with emotion as she spoke: “It was the same way I felt when I got Cade’s diagnosis. … I mean, [what woman] brings home a 5-year-old when she’s in her mid-forties and the rest of her kids are all teenagers? … Perhaps God gave us Cade because he knew that 17 years later we would say yes to Joy.”

Freedom in God’s Word

As Rebekah prepares to travel to China to bring her little girl home, she is continuing to root herself in God’s Word, reading it daily and speaking it out loud.

Being able to read and quote Scripture in a language that speaks to her heart is critical to Rebekah as she grows spiritually:

“Having [Scripture] in my language is super important so I can understand it, I can speak it, and then I’ll recall it. … Not only am I reading it and taking it in, but I’m putting it right back out. … [Scripture]’s almost having a deeper effect [on me] because I’m agreeing with it by saying out loud; it’s forming a deeper groove of faith.”

While Rebekah doesn’t pretend to understand everything about how God works, she does know that letting go of her own expectations and surrendering to the truth she finds in Scripture has brought her incredible freedom. That freedom is something she’s eager to see people experience in the U.S. and around the world.

“I think that’s what faith does,” Rebekah said. “It kind of gives a kingdom perspective. Something that we probably never would have imagined now becomes something we pursue! And that’s what transformation is, right? That’s what going from death to life looks like — ushering in the kingdom, or seeking first the kingdom of God, and everything else is added.

The way God sees everything is the reverse of the way we often — in our human, finite mind — can see. But he’s up to something so much greater.”

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Rebekah Lyons is a national speaker and bestselling author of "You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are" and "Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning."

Alongside her husband, Gabe, she serves as co-founder of Q Ideas, a nonprofit organization that helps Christian leaders winsomely engage culture. 

Gabe and Rebekah are raising their three children and two toy poodles in Franklin, Tennessee.

For more inspiring stories and interviews, visit our Women of the Word page!