Friday, June 28, 2013

Letting Go

Recently, my online cable provider announced that it has "upgraded" its system and every customer will need a new modem to stay compatible. I think I've already been through four modems in eight years. No technical service considers itself effective unless it regularly subjects its users to the inconvenience of buying new equipment, learning new systems, or spending eight hours a month downloading new software.  

I don't like change or interruptions. Be it the unplanned need to visit a customer service line, the heart-wrenching shakeup of a death in the family, or anything in between, whatever spoils my well-laid and taken-for-granted expectations also tends to spoil my day. Not to mention my joy ("Why does it always happen to ME?!!"), my hopeful attitude ("I KNOW it'll ALWAYS happen to me"), my love for neighbor ("I could kill that manufacturer for not making a permanently foolproof product"), and my love for God ("Can't He see I'm 'tested out' already???!!!").

A distaste for change also tends to spoil our effectiveness in responding to God's leading. As if to emphasize the pervasiveness of this issue, the story of the "rich young ruler" appears in all three Synoptic Gospels. Here was a man with a problem many of us share: He wanted the full joy of the deepest relationship with God, but not at the price of giving up the predictable, comfortable lifestyle he was used to. And his decision to hold on to what he had was made not with a "that's an easy choice" shrug, but with an aching heart. He wanted both; he was desperate to find a way to have both; but if that option were impossible, the "tried and true" seemed the more comfortable misery.   

Contrast the attitude in Jim Elliot's famous quote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Or as St. Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 4:18: "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (NIV 2011). Whether we are willing to face the fact or not, ultimately everything material will be taken from us (or we from it). The only real question is: are we going to keep all we can of the temporary and settle for the smallest spiritual rewards here and in Heaven; or are we willing to say wholeheartedly to God, "Everything I have is really on loan from You; I will use it or give it as You choose, not as I choose"?

Are we willing to leave the "safety" of the boat and experience the joy of walking on the water?

Letting go is never easy:
All our lives we grasp and cling
With our hearts to shining trinkets,
Clutching every dazzling thing.
How we long to know contentment!
How we fear the pain of loss!
We forget, we dread admitting,
"Keeping" comes at painful cost.

From the weight of all our hoardings,
Letting go can bring release;
From the pain of ceaseless fretting,
Letting go will give us peace.
From our cravings' heavy burden,
Letting go will set us free:
God has better things awaiting--
Drop your trinkets now and see!

God will let us go our own ways,
Let us break His heart with pain,
While His arms are open, waiting,
Till we turn to Him again.
All your "holding" is mere clinging
To a cliff of sliding sands:
Friend, release your fear of falling:
Drop into your Father's hands!

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