Letting Go


Letting go is difficult. It is especially hard to let go of people, things, places, and times that have been of great value to us. One of the pithy, life saving slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous is, "Let go and let God." Easy to say; hard to do. But the eagle must let go in order to fly; the safety of the nest must be left behind.

Jesus repeatedly asks me, asks us to let go of life as we have known it in the process of letting Him love us into the life we can have. He says, "...anyone who holds onto life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal" (Jn 12:25, MSG).

So, two questions: First, how is it that holding onto life as it is destroys that life? Second, does Jesus truly give life, real life, eternal life?

First, the destruction of life by possessiveness: 

Think about holding a delicate work of art, or a baby, or a spouse when making love. A tenacious, possessive grasp can ruin the art, kill the baby, disrupt the flow of love. And so it is with any of the people, things, places, and times we value. We risk, in holding on too tightly, becoming like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, saying of our prize, "It's mine, all mine;" and Gollum's life was destroyed in his selfish hold on "the precious."  If you and I hold too tightly to our lives, including our personal, political, even our religious values, we can wind up destroying others and rejecting the love and work of God in the process. It has ever been so, has it not?

Jesus was crucified by a tenacious, possessive hold on authority. The Sanhedrin and others with Roman power wanted to hold onto their authority. They wanted to keep life as it was, and this upstart Jesus was being touted as King of the Jews. Neither Rome nor the religious authorities could be having that. So they killed Jesus, the threat to life as it was.

But in the process of holding onto life as it was, they destroyed the gift of God's love. And Jesus' forgiveness of their failure to let go and let God give Himself to them, that forgiveness took the form of the first Easter.

That forgiveness, that triumph of grace, that victory of God's love over the destruction of "mine, all mine," that persistent resurrection of God's love is the answer to our second question: Jesus wins through to victory, giving real, eternal life.

The disciples showed the real, eternal life God gives. They followed Jesus into the process of letting go of life as it had been and opened their hearts to life as it could be. They had written the first part of their story; they let go of control and followed Jesus in writing the end of the story (Brene' Brown). They let go of wealth, arrogance, self-righteousness, their work as productive fishermen, judgement of others, war with those who would threaten them, even the safety of life itself; they found the kingdom of heaven, comfort, mercy, identity as children of God, indeed they received a vision of God (Matt 5:3-11). As Jesus promised in those beatitudes, God opened the door to blessedness. They were, in letting go, saved into real life, eternal life. They entered the heavenly places of love filled hearts, joy, and peace beyond comprehension, triumphant as the risen Christ Himself, even under threat of dungeon, fire, and sword.

What of us? Are we destroying life, ours and others', by holding onto life as it is, life as it has been? Read the headlines; read the headlines of our country, of our churches, of our own lives. The Apostle Paul warned of a possessive, self-righteous hold on life as it is or has been: "If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Gal 5:15, NIV).

The alternative? Let go and let God. The invitation is open to us, still: "Whoever follows me will have ... life" (Jn 8:12, NRSV). Real, eternal life. Those willing to let go "...spread their wings and soar like eagles" (Isa 40:31, MSG).