Not long ago, I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat for one of our church campuses. I wanted to be super spiritual and say I’d pray about it, but mostly my heart and mouth were long past saying yes, without the praying.
Let me clarify, I stepped out of my job last year to spend time serving my family and listening for direction. Sometime, during this sabbatical of sorts, I gained great clarity for how I could use my gifts/talents to serve others. My first “yes” would always go to my family (specifically my husband and children)–and with three kids at three different schools, this was obvious. My second “yes” would be to my local church family–if it didn’t interrupt my family commitments. Finally, my third “yes” would be to accepting teaching opportunities that would not cause conflict to the priorities mentioned above.
So…when I was asked about teaching at the retreat, it didn’t require extensive prayer. I knew what things I had already bathed in prayer. I had the above filters to run the request through and there weren’t any conflicts. Bam.
After accepting, I was given the topic “Letting go and falling back.” It was catchy and I liked it, at first. However, the more I thought about it, the more I struggled with it.
Returning home from vacation, a few months ago, the idea of letting go began steeping in my spirit. While sitting on the plane, waiting for take off, I met “Sandy.” I didn’t exactly meet her, she was sitting in the row in front of me, but since she hadn’t mastered the “inside voice”, I felt like I was held hostage in her conversation. Oh the poor soul next to her…
“Sandy” spoke more words in 30 minutes than I knew was humanly possible. By take off I knew: how many siblings she had, her work/financial situation, where she lived, when her parents married, who was watching her cats, how much she was going to pay the friend watching her cats, why she moved six months prior, and that her dad had a vasectomy for goodness sake! Near the end of the chatter she used a phrase that crawled all over me…”I’m going to do the christian thing.” For her, in this particular situation, it meant asking a “friend” to stay out of her life.
As I listened (and to be clear–there is a sick side of me that was enjoying her absurdities-while being annoyed at the same time) I realized we often attempt to convince ourselves that we have let go of something, or that we have nobly put God in charge of an area of our life, done the “christian thing”–when it’s really still in our clutches. If we are really “letting go”, how can we possibly know exactly what our next step or interaction will look like?
It’s not possible.
As a whole, I think we’ve grown comfortable in our “false sense of control.” Even the phrase “giving God control” would indicate that we have somehow been in control…and in humility we are giving it back to Him. Maybe the proper phrase is “acknowledging God’s control.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…John 1:10-12
Through HIM all things were made…
Without HIM nothing was made that has been made…
Why is letting go so hard?
We are ridiculously self-centered.
In our false sense of control, perpetuated by our self-centered nature, we fail to recognize His presence and sovereignty.
I think we have to start by confessing, which is really just surrendering our grasp, the things we have clutched in our hands. Rid us of ourselves. The motive for this can’t be gain…it has to be God. This shifts our focus and confidence from ourselves to Him. As we do this, we begin to wrap our minds around this notion of “falling back.”
It’s our nature to “fall back” on the thing or person we deeply trust. So what do you fall back on? If I’m honest with you, my first response isn’t God. It’s myself. I am the ultimate recovering self-preserver. Like supreme. So in any “risky” situation, I tend to defer to my own strength, understanding, etc.
As I prepared my thoughts for the retreat, I was overwhelmed with the amount of trust required in “falling back.” I found myself wondering: Do I really trust God? Do I really believe that God loves me?
Trust requires vulnerability. Vulnerability needs to be met with love.
In his book Reflections for Ragamuffins, Brennan Manning writes, “You will trust God only as much as you love him.”
We must be convinced, with everything in us, that letting go (becoming vulnerable) will be met with great love from our Father.
Looking back at John 1-if all things were made through him…and if we believe 1 John 4:8-God IS love…then it’s reasonable to conclude that love is God’s essential nature. Thus, we have the green light to love Him with everything we are, because love originated with Him in the first place!
What if “falling back” is really “falling forward?” Like the child being coaxed into the pool by her father. His arms extended and waiting. She must first make the decision to let go, or surrender her position of safety on dry land…and trust her father will do as he has said, and catch her.
As we “let go” and “fall back”, I think we’ll find ourselves falling forward into His embrace.
I dare you to release your clenched fist in surrender to Him.
I promise He will fill our empty hand with hope.
THAT is worth holding on to!