Fair warning: this blog is going to be epic. This is one of those blogs that God has really been writing on my heart for sometime now, but in truly amazing ways this past week. Last week I blogged about holding on and how easy it is to hold on. I knew, in some sense, this blog was coming and even as I wrote last week’s blog I was praying that God would show me how and why we need to let go, and let me tell you He has answered that prayer in more than one way this past week! But first, a few more words on why we hold on to things, to the past, to people: We hold on because we fear letting go. We are familiar with the past. Often I think about people who have hurt us and yet we keep hoping for a different outcome (and isn’t that the definition of insanity?), but we hold on to the past because we know it, the hurts have already happened. We struggle to let go because we are afraid of more hurt, of a new hurt, of a deeper wound. So we hold on to the past, we hold on to the familiar.
But the point remains written on our hearts, we are called to let go. After all, Jesus tells Peter that, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18). So if we hold on in this life, it will stay with us in heaven. I don’t know about you, but the things I find myself holding on to aren’t things I want to following me to heaven. So in praying about this blog, about why we are called to, why we need to let go, God showed me in a few tangible examples why we have to let go if we ever want to be truly happy, joyful people.
Letting go of people
As I said last week, my family and I took my baby brother (he’ll always be my baby brother, I don’t care that he is far taller than I am now!) to his freshman year of college. Leaving him was incredibly difficult, but it had to be done. Sure, I could have drugged him and brought him back home and convinced him to stay in Colorado, but I didn’t. He would have been SO mad if I did. I had to and have to let him go so that he can grow, learn, spread his wings and fly and become the man that God created him to be. Holding on, in this case, would be selfish. Letting go means showing him love and placing my trust in God that He will lead my brother where ever his journey takes him…even if its hundreds of miles from home.
Letting go of the past version of a friend
I have a friend (and for all you smartie pants out there I have more than one friend!) who was this amazing human being. I was, for all intents and purposes, enamored by them. They meant so much to me, they gave me hope and taught me to raise my standards in life. So, its easy to see why I want to hold on to that person, to who they were for me, to what they meant in my life. But this is all in the past. The lessons this person taught me, the need to raise my standards, those things remain, but that person is gone. No, they didn’t die, but they aren’t that person anymore. They are unsure, they are inconsistent and I sense that instability in my soul. They are no longer good for me. I have to let go of the past, of who they used to be in order to see them for who they are now, for better or worse. Seeing them in the present allows me to pray for them more intentionally, and yet become even more aware of the fact that God is calling my heart elsewhere. Furthermore, by holding on to the way this person used to be, I’m not allowing them to change, to grow, because in my mind they are locked in this cage, this template of how they used to be. I have to let go so that I can learn to see them through God’s eyes and continue to pray for them.
Letting go of past hurts
How many times a day or a week do we pray the Our Father? It becomes such an automatic thing that we often gloss over the words without realizing what we are praying. It is amazing to me how the following line always hits me upside the head when I’m hurt by friends or loved ones: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Bam. God forgives us in the same way we forgive others, so if we don’t forgive others, God knows it. I don’t want to say that God holds out on us or that God doesn’t forgive us, because He never holds out on us and He always forgives us, but when we fail to forgive others, when we fail to forgive His children we are separating ourselves from Him. Without going into all of the gory details, a few weeks ago a couple of good friends of mine put me in a really awkward and highly uncomfortable situation. The first couple of days after it was easy to be mad, to hold on to the awkwardness, to the weirdness of it all. It may have even been easy to stay mad, to cut of the friendship, cut my losses and move on with my life. But God (as He always does) called me to forgiveness. And do you want to know what He has done with that forgiveness? He’s strengthened those friendships and is leading them to a place even more beautiful than before. He takes my small gift of faith (the forgiveness) and waters it with His love, blessing those relationships and bringing them to something more beautiful than words can describe. We let go and we let God wash us in His love.
What we learn from Satan
Stop freaking out. Satan is a bad dude and there’s not much good to be learned from him, but Saint Irenaeus has a wonderful theory that teaches us about letting go and in that theory we learn something from Satan. Saint Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of Saint John, so call him a third generation Jesus freak, if you willl. Irenaeus had a theory which is commonly referred to as the “Fish hook” theory. He says that since the beginning of time (ever since the Fall from Eden) Satan held every person in his hands who had died. But then Jesus came along, and, according to the Apostle’s Creed, He died and descended into hell. Irenaeus postulates that Satan let go of all of humanity who had died up to that point and reached both hands out for Jesus, the Son of God, the ultimate prize for Satan. All of humanity, then, was free to ascend and be united with the Father. However, when Satan opened his hands to gaze upon this great prize, he came up empty handed because Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. So what does this teach us? We actually learn something from Satan, a truly valuable lesson: let go of everything you are holding on to and cling to Jesus. We hold on to so much in our lives, so much baggage and hurt and pain, but we are called to let go of that, to let those worries ascend to the Father who cares for all of our needs. But here’s the amazing thing about the difference between us and Satan: we never come up empty handed for Jesus walks with us always.
Today, and everyday, may we let go of everything that keeps us from Jesus so that we may, with hungry hearts and open hands, reach for Jesus with all that we are, trusting that with Him by our sides, we shall never find ourselves empty handed. AMEN.