Letting Go

Sixth Sunday, Palm Sunday

Letting go is hard. I’ve had my fingers pried loose enough times over the years to know. I know good things come when I do. Yet it still doesn’t come naturally or easily. Many times I’ve been at a crossroads where I had a choice: either to let go of dreams, attachments, and people I love and step into the unknown, or to cling to what I already know. Every time it’s been a struggle.

One of the most memorable struggles was in the year 2000 when my husband’s midlife career change meant a cross-country move for our whole family. We were deeply rooted in our home state of Texas, with close ties to family, friends, church and community.   Moving would mean tearing loose those connections that had given me life, and starting over in thousands of miles away in unfamiliar New England soil, where we knew no one. I struggled for months to accept that this might be a door God was opening. And to trust that he had something new waiting for all of us, if I would just let go. In the end, I said to my husband in a shaky voice, “I think we need to move.” It was one of the hardest things I’ve done. It felt like a death.

As I began to loosen my grip on all that was familiar, I tried to practice what God had been teaching me for years, to put down roots in him, the source of Life. Letting go was agonizing, yet somehow I also got glimmers of peace. I found a prayer that has helped me since in times of struggle: “God, help me to hold on loosely to the things you bring into my life, so that when it’s time to let go, you won’t have to pry my fingers loose.”

It helps to know that struggle is a common feature of letting go, or relinquishment. And to see that I am slowly but surely changed as I continue to surrender my will and die to self. It’s part of a process God has been working in me all along, to conform me more and more into my true self, into the image of Christ. Jesus struggled too as he prayed in the garden, knowing he was facing betrayal, humiliation and death on the cross. As he prayed, he asked if there might be any other way, yet even as he asked, he was able to say, “Yet Thy will be done.” There must always be a death before we can get to the resurrection.

This is true for us too. For each of us, the first death we’re asked to consider is of our own will, or the daily struggle of our egos and agendas and need to control. Where might God want to loosen my grip, either to an attachment or a situation or simply my need to be in control? Might there be something he wants to give me that I can’t receive with my fists tightly closed? How might letting go be part of transformation for me?

Today’s prayer practice: prayer of relinquishment

Read and meditate on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene, Mark 14:32-42. Sit quietly, breathe deeply and still your heart and mind. Read the passage through three times, first listening for the word or phrase that resonates with you. Hold that thought loosely, then read it a second time, waiting to see if more unfolds. Read it a third time, then respond to God’s message to you from his word. If there is something you’d like to let go of, ask for strength to do that. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3.

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