Is Your Grip on Comfort too Tight??
Don’t be shocked to find upon arriving at mid-life, that you still don’t have a clue about “letting go.” Here’s your fair warning people!
Preservation, with a clenched grip, has its grip on me. Change. Loss. Leaving. Starting over. Moving on. These earthquakes come like ocean waves, some crashing hard, toppling over my stability. Life, I’ve learned, is a cycle of receiving and releasing. Yet to open our hands seems as counter-intuitive as driving with our eyes closed.
How does one let go?
Until recently I don’t know If I have ever posed the question to myself. Is it a daily posture, or is it thrust upon me by circumstances? When is holding on considered a holy grip of confident trust, and when is it a refusal to release idolatry and control?
I swing between the two. Half the time I don’t know what is foolish and what is wise? I can’t discern my motives.:
-Am I justifying staying put because the fear of the unknown is so overwhelming? Oh, I’ve done that.
-Am I avoiding risk by telling myself, “To stay is a sign of commitment!” I have done that, too.
One thing I do know, letting go is part of the human existence. I have seen friendships, as robust as can be, disappear with a text, phone call, or email. I have seen long-held values compromised in a split second by an emotional surge. Entering marriage after years of singleness and find I still want to control every decision. Holding loosely to what I want is not easy but it makes us courageous and keeps us humble.
2016 crashed over me and washed me up on the shores of an identity crisis. God took me out of a 20-year vocation. He broke down my resistance forcing open my grip on all I knew myself to be. Killing myself to preserve something that was killing me. These roots went deep. They needed to be pulled up, clipped, and replanted into new soil. This work of God was essential but excruciating. This was a severe mercy.
And such are the cycles of cut and release.
The Holy Spirit is always drawing us into something new. New growth. New relationships. New callings. New perspectives. New adventures. New interests. New stories. New places. New neighborhoods. New co-workers. New levels of attachment in your marriage. New courage. New experiences.
He is teaching us the benefit of relinquishing. Less control. Less fear. Less self-protection. Less anger. Less safety. Less unhealthy dependencies. Less narrow-mindedness. Less anxiety. Less justification and rationalization. Less atrophy. Less shallow roots. Less comfortable relationships.
And though it can be heart-wrenching, we gain backbone and tenacity we didn’t know we had. "Abundant life," Jesus called it.
And as Paul said…"He who calls you is faithful and HE WILL DO IT.”
A step, and another step, and another step…and soon we experience freedom in our bones. Author and professor Marilyn McEntyre words it well,
“There’s a time for prudence, and a time to consider security, and a time to forfeit one’s own desires for another’s sake. But my concern here is those times when we recognize a call to real risk or to a decision whose outcome we can’t predict…they were momentous decisions for me, but once I released my grip on the safe and the familiar, they were oddly easy…Something—someone—bore me up and would not let me go.”
How often do I avoid the need to trust God? Bubble-wrapping myself up into creature comforts, curtailing maturity (as I always say to my students, “Maturity does not come with age!”).
Each sunrise offers the possibility of letting go. Think of it as an invitation, an opportunity. Closed eyes and a clenched grip are toxic to spiritual growth. Paying attention to our lives, naming our obsession with comfort and safety, is imperative for personal development. Take these idols straight to the Lord Jesus. Tell him you are afraid to let them go. Be honest with him.
Our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. As the Psalmist says, “He remembers that we are dust.” As the Good Shepherd, he leads us in the way of LIFE and is patient as we struggle with the process. He loves us too much to leave us where we are.
Now it's your turn:
Where do you need to release control, my friends?
What about trusting God with a wayward child?
What about a move?
What about leaving a job you place too much of your identity in?
What about personal opinions you squash everyone else with?
What about financial fear?
What about friends or family where there is an unhealthy attachment or dependency?
What about trusting God aging parents?
What about a boss that has a tough personality?
What about loss in whatever form?
Get on your knees alone, do what the Puritans did…open your hands, and give him the things you can’t seem to release...He who calls you is faithful and HE will do it.
Oh, and as you surrender, be alert to the seedlings of new growth…