Over the weekend, my sister and I took a turn-around trip to Mississippi to pick up some furniture from our favorite auntie’s house. Aunt Venia is faced with the daunting task of downsizing from a 3000 square foot house nestled amongst acres of soybean fields to a 1200 square foot apartment in Shreveport suburbia. It’s going to be GREAT once it’s done, but the packing and the moving and the purging just plain stinks!
Ever the family historian, Aunt Venia has a nostalgic heart. Every item in her home has some kind of memory or meaning attached. But the fact is, she does not have room to bring it all with her. Some of it, she will have to let go.
My heart aches for her because I know how hard it is to part with the things that represent a happier time in life.
Memories, and the items attached to them, are so personal. You and I could attend the same event and leave with a completely different heart response. The mementos we gather along the way are as unique as we are. While one person snags a t-shirt from every port, another might pick up a piece of wall art or household decor. Others keep it simple with photos.
But we all have our stories. The ones that bring us to tears of laughter or tears of lament. Our memories are so much deeper than the items we attach them to.
We’ve been trying to convince Aunt Venia it’s time to let go. That her memories will remain even if the things don’t. That she has a lot more memories to make. We can say all those things ’til we’re blue in the face, but, ultimately, it’s her choice, and I believe God will help her release things slowly. Letting go of her homeplace is a pretty big release in its own right!
My auntie’s struggle has me thinking about the whole concept of letting go. We are a “graspy” people, aren’t we?
We hold on to things. We hold on to people. We hold on to habits. We hold on to grudges. We hold on to control.
When our hands and hearts are full of all those things, we can’t grasp hold of all God has for us.
God has been teaching me a lot lately about the whole concept of letting go.
Letting go of things.
Since most of my things are still boxed up in the barn after living here for close to two years, I realize how unimportant they are. If I don’t need those things bad enough to go out there and dig them out of boxes, I don’t need them at all. I sense a purging in my near future (when the weather cools down). I’ll hang on to some pictures of my sweet boys and the hand-painted metal platter my parents received as a wedding gift. Those items make me smile without cluttering my life. I’ll keep a few household items I actually use and sell or donate the rest.
Letting go of tangible things frees our hands for the intangible.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 NIV).
Letting go of people.
For the longest time, I held on to broken relationships. I blamed myself completely for the break-down. I begged them for another chance. I spiritualized the situation by pointing out God’s command to forgive. I tried to prove myself to them. I pleaded with God and with others to put in a good word for me. Truth is, I can’t force anyone to love me or even like me for that matter, and when my mind is consumed with scheming how to restore a broken relationship, it can’t be focused on nurturing the relationships I still have.
Letting go of people who don’t want to be held frees our arms to embrace the ones right there in front of us, especially our relationship with Christ.
- It’s just the way I am.
- I’ve always been _______.
- Bad tempers run in my family.
- The devil made me do it.
- If only I had _____________, I could ________.
Yeah, me too. We all have unpleasant tendencies, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to change. When we hold on to our bad habits, we’re exposing our lack of faith that God is strong enough to help us change.
Letting go of bad habits frees us to demonstrate God’s power.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).
Letting go of grudges.
I have a lot of struggles, but holding grudges isn’t one of them. Thank you, Lord! But I have seen, firsthand, how unforgiveness affects people. Holding a grudge against one person keeps us from having healthy relationships with anyone. The burden of unforgiveness makes us old before our time because it’s a heavy burden God never intended for us to bear.
Jesus, of all people, had the right to hold a grudge, yet some of his final words on the Cross were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). He forgave before the offense was even finished, yet so many of us dig our claws into our grudges for years, decades, even into the grave. What a waste of life!
I love how Dave Willis puts is. “Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”
Letting go of grudges frees our hands to receive God’s grace for ourselves and to extend it to others.
“If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15 NIV).
Letting go of control.
This is the big one. The domino that knocks down all the rest. Think about it, when we cling to things or people or habits or grudges, we’re trying to exercise control. I think it’s natural to long for some measure of security and sure-thing-ness. We want some things we can count on. We can’t count on things or people or our own willpower. Things break or burn up. People walk away or pass away. Our willpower can only withstand so much opposition.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).
Jesus is our sure thing, but He refuses to compete with our stuff, our relationships, our habits, and our grudges. He’s an all-or-nothing God. It’s impossible to live free without letting go.
Letting go of control frees God to bring His own brand of beauty to our lives.
“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14-15 NIV).
Forgive me for holding on to lesser things. I can’t hold Your hand and hold on to the things of this world. I surrender everything to You, Lord. My stuff. My sticky relationships. My sinful habits. My skinned-up heart. Take control of every area of my life, Lord, and help me live in the freedom Christ died for me to enjoy.
In the name of Jesus, my sure thing, I pray,
Are you having trouble letting go? I’d love to pray with you!