Focus: Letting go
Matthew 16:25-27 (NKJV) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Life is made up of a series of experiences that require us to let go of something. So many things pass through our hearts and hands in the course of a lifetime. Sometimes it’s easy to let go of a thing we have worn out or an item that didn’t turn out to be what we anticipated. We don’t really mind giving up that kind of stuff.
There are other things we have to give up that we actually have no control over. When there’s a job change and the family has to move, we sometimes have to give up ‘people’, as friendships can gradually grow distant, and then slip away. Over the years—for many reasons—we have to let go of a lot of people and things whether we want to, or not.
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Some of the letting go can cause us to hold on too tightly to ‘who we are’. When we’ve had to give up so many things, there might be some resentment and passive or active anger that we hold onto ‘instead’…as though that could take the place of a loss we didn’t choose.
We might not even realize what’s going on as a small thing occurs and we find ourselves suddenly more angry than we should be. It seems like our feelings are unfounded—and yet, they’re not. The small thing that happened somehow triggered a response that might seem completely unrelated—when in truth, the repressed memory of a loss was stirred.
Why anger? Because often when we are challenged, the real dynamic taking place is that we are being required to let go of something for the sake of ‘peace’.
When we’ve had to give up a lot—we can become calloused and insensitive on the outside, but on the inside, the memories are still there. Nobody really likes having to give things up.
It’s common to overcompensate for losses we’ve had. Sometimes we try to make up for the pain by acquiring other things, possibly not even consciously knowing that what we are really doing is trying to replace what we lost with something else that might somehow make us feel better…for a while.
We try in all kinds of ways to hide the pain when a loss was especially deep. We might think we’ve done a pretty good job—but our feelings usually find a way of coming out in one way or another.
When our children were little, we were friends with several other couples who also had young children. When any of the little ones had a birthday, we’d all get together and celebrate with presents and food.
I remember so clearly a party that was held at a park with a nice pavilion and a playground. The kids played and had fun. The hotdogs, chips, and cake were served—and it was time for the little birthday boy to open his gifts.
We had girls and I was never sure what to buy for boys, so I asked the mom in advance what she thought he might like. I was happy and relieved when she was specific about a fun children’s video he’d seen at a friend’s house and really liked. I was thrilled with the information—and also that I could easily purchase the video at the local kids department store without a lot of shopping around.
The little guy had only opened a gift or two when his mom handed him our present to unwrap. His small three year old hands tore off the paper and he shrieked with joy when he saw the video. He was happily holding onto it with both hands when his mother tried to take it from him so he could continue opening the rest of his gifts. He didn’t throw a fit, but he also didn’t want to put the video down. He was holding onto it very tightly when his mother gracefully said, “Look at all of these gifts you still have to open. You’re not going to be able to open them if you don’t let go of the video.” A look of realization passed over the boy’s face, and he reluctantly let her take the video out of his hands.
The memory of that scene has stayed with me through the years. There have been a number of times when it has come to mind when I was having trouble letting go of one thing or another.
Declaration: I will find new strength by letting go of another thing I might not want to release. By letting go of anger, God can fill me with His peace.
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