Another two months have passed, but I’m glad to be writing to you again because I’ve missed you! Summer was busy and packed with exploring, playing, camping and swimming and then August brought a big transition of the kids heading back to school. While I loved our summertime adventures, I gotta say that I sure was ready to share my tiny humans with some other adults. Thank you teachers!
As my kids have started school, it’s felt as if I’ve crossed a major threshold. One that I only dreamed about when they were tiny and I was busy chasing, feeding, picking up, wiping butts and picking up some more. Older moms had told me that this day would come where they’d be away from me for more hours than they were with me, but it was hard to imagine.
But as the days felt long, the time went fast and suddenly that moment is here. My kids are in school 3.5 days a week and I’ve found myself in this kind of strange twilight zone. I keep pinching myself…is this real? Can I actually sit on the toilet alone? Or go for a walk without negotiating which playgrounds we will stop at and what snacks I will pack? Or drink a cup of coffee while it’s still hot and not a cold, 6 hour old – counter-top version.
So here I am, in this new space and it feels kind of weird. Kind of like I’m learning to be me again.
As much as I love the fresh scent of possibility that comes with change, I’m also feeling pretty dang uncomfortable in this new territory of not-knowing. And it’s here in the newness that I find myself gripping.
It’s an old pattern that stems from my recovering control-freak tendencies and it goes pretty much like this: the more that things feel out of my control, the harder I try to control them. It makes me a delight to live with.
It looks like gripping to my own plan, my expectations of others, a good thing that seems to help, or even a certain image of myself or my kids. I start to hold on tight, and then this week the funniest thing happened.
I was taking my puppy on a walk (which has become one of my favorite spiritual practices because it gets me outside, it gets me quiet and it gets me listening). And on this particular walk I had a free coffee in one hand and Bodega’s leash in the other.
It’s worth mentioning that the coffee was purchased with a gift card so you better believe it was huge and decadent and an utter treat. It was sunny outside, the air was crisp and I was basking in the delight of un-rushed time, the clear, smokeless skies and my kid-free state when all of a sudden Bodega saw a goose and took off running.
Now this is normal and fine…except I was very carefully holding her recent dog poop in the same hand as her leash. Within 5 minutes of starting our walk she had graced me with not one…. but two gifts…and unfortunately I only had ONE bag. That meant the first poop was inside the bag, and the second was strategically and quite dangerously balancing on top of it.
Long story long – as my puppy took off after the goose, I yelled, “Oh shit” … and that was exactly right. All I could focus on was not dropping the big pile of it that was precariously balancing in my hand.
I was so afraid that the un-bagged poop would go flying, that I let go of the leash – and my free coffee and watched as my puppy took off after her target. I looked down to find myself standing there with nothing more than poop in my hands and coffee spilt on my feet.
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry, because as sad as it was that I hadn’t even taken the first sip, it was pretty comical that I was standing there, by myself, holding a big pile of poop.
And in the quiet of the moment I heard a gentle whisper say, “Notice what you’re gripping on to, Devany…are you holding on to poop and letting good things go?”
And as I collected my puppy from her feathered friends and threw away my empty cup, I started to think about that…
Where in my own life might I be gripping to dead-end or lifeless things?
Dead end – because no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to control them…like the future, how others respond to me, or perceive me. Or lifeless things – like patterns or behavior that feel as if they are helping…but maybe they’re not?
In the discomfort of uncertainty and newness, could what I’m gripping actually be holding me captive, while the good and free gifts – like grace, freedom, wholeness and love – are slipping out of my distracted hands?
I wonder if that’s why Jesus taught about the power and goodness of letting go.
It made me think of his words in John 12:24-25 when he says,
“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never more than a grain of wheat.
But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.
In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is, destroys that life.
But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever and real and eternal.”(MSG)
It seems as if letting go is different then giving up or giving in. It looks more like releasing the things in our life that are dead – and no longer bringing the life we ask of them; be it a patterned behavior, a patterned response, our expectations, a relationship or even a good thing that we over-do.
There is grace here – because I think Jesus is saying that this dead thing – will never become more than it is… unless we set it down.
It is our choice if we will place the dead thing down in the soil of God’s love – and through the process of surrender, allow God the Great Gardener to help us grow something we couldn’t on our own.
We see this mysterious pattern of surrender leading to new life in nature and in Scripture. Dead seeds placed in the ground sprout into new life that’s multiplied in number. A caterpillar allows the process of the cocoon to transform them into a beautiful, thriving butterfly. Or the world witnessed Jesus die on the cross only to see him come back to life three days later.
As much as I believe this promise and pattern of transformation…it still can be so hard for me to let go.
I think there are three main reasons why…
- First, it’s hard to let go when I DON’T want something to change. If I like the comfort that some pattern or action or relationship brings me…I want it to stay that way. But I once heard, “the only constant in life is change.” So by demanding the same fulfillment over and over again from the same thing, I’m failing to let it grow and often find it stays disappointingly stale and stagnant. If anything, it’s only a cheaper version of the real fulfillment I’m seeking.
Not to over-use a metaphor here, but if I had just dropped the poop, it could have changed form and become fertilizer for the soil to grow something new. Instead it remained disappointingly the same…just a stinky pile.
- Second, it’s hard to let go when I DO want something to change. When I want my outcome so badly, I find myself over-thinking, over-planning or micro-managing to make it happen. But as I’m so busy over-functioning and just trying harder, I forget that I do not have sole ownership over my life. There is One who is greater in love and power and grace than me. What if I opened my hands and surrendered the burden, even just a little, so we could grow something new together?
- But the biggest reason that I resist letting go – is that I don’t like how it makes me feel. I really dislike the sensation of standing in the middle of life with open hands. It feels vulnerable, naked, helpless…and for this recovering control freak – reckless. It feels smarter to walk around with balled up fists – ready to resist, fight or protect. But it’s nearly impossible for grace to flow when I’m walled off and it’s definitely impossible to receive gifts with closed hands.
I think that’s why Jesus gently reminds us, “let it go and be reckless in love.” Let the promise of love help you recklessly risk loosening your grip and see where your open vulnerability and the safety of Jesus’ companionship might lead.
So…what if to let go is to trust life.
Can we trust that God is both the soil of our life and the One who does the gardening? Both nourishing us and helping us to transform fully into the person we’ve been created to be.
We don’t need to grip in worry. We can choose to stay open and trust that God will hand us the nourishment we need….be it grace, a second chance, a new beginning or an unexpected outcome. And as the Great Gardener, we can believe that surrender to His love and care will lead to new life.
But won’t it hurt to let go?
Yes. I’ve found that there is pain and grief and heartache when something comes to an end. When I have to say goodbye. But I also know I’m quick to assume that discomfort equals bad and comfort equals good.
What if we were to release our judgments at the same time that we loosen our grip?
Because that is part of the mystery of Love’s resurrecting power.
Where a seed looks hopelessly lifeless or a cocoon appears to be shaking violently in pain, or when Jesus hung from the cross beaten and defeated….they all looked like the end. But in fact, we were witnessing the middle. The middle where suffering, time and waiting takes place.
These hard, sad, uncomfortable and sometimes long-suffering in-between spaces come after the surrender but before the new beginning.
So what about you?
What if you were to begin to let go of the thing that you are holding, that feels lifeless?
Even if you are afraid…perhaps you allow yourself permission to release any judgement of what comes next.
Of course this is easier said than done, but I love how Jesus is describing an invitation more than giving an ultimatum. He’s saying, try it. Try setting the dead thing down so that you can live and grow in what is real (not a cheap substitute) and eternal (like love, peace and unity that surpasses this lifetime) instead of letting what you’re gripping lead to destruction.
My puppy walk helped me to see that God desires to multiply in love the exact thing I’m hesitant to surrender, like my need for control, my expectations of others or my fear that it could hurt.
It’s indeed a mystery how the love of God is a force of multiplication that brings dead things to life – but what a wondrous adventure, if we dare to believe it.
How about trying?
May God’s never failing grace nourish and transform you and may the power of love give you the courage to recklessly surrender the lifeless thing you may still be holding.
Because who knows…maybe you are preventing some good fertilizing and transformation from happening. Perhaps today you try setting it down. Even if for a moment.
May it be so,