Thursday, September 15, 2016

Letting Go

I have a hard time remembering that I cannot control much (if any) of what happens to me. It’s one of those things I know, but I still get frustrated when things don’t go as I think they should.

It hit me last week. One of those “A-ha” moments as I recalled the most familiar part of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

There is more to the prayer than these lines, but there is plenty here. And while it is a prayer I am familiar with, last week it went from my head into my heart.

The persistent theme of my life lately has been letting go. In my reading, journaling and in multiple instances of life I have encountered the prompting to let go. Suddenly last week, the beginning lines of the Serenity Prayer hit me like something I was hearing for the very first time.

To accept what I cannot change, not grudgingly, but with peace, is a challenge. When I get frustrated at another’s behavior, when the actions I’ve undertaken with pure motives are misunderstood and criticized, being able to let go with serenity requires discipline.

In a recent discussion I was reminded of one way Jesus did this. When a rich man comes to find out what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus. The man goes away sad.

Jesus lets him go. He does not run after him, even though Mark 10:21 says that Jesus loved him. Jesus lets him make his own decision, even though the man’s decision is to walk away. Sometimes love looks different than our expectations. One might think that if Jesus loved the man so much, he would run after him and try to make sure the man understood the cost of his decision. But Jesus gives him the freedom to make his own choice.

In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Remen contrasts attachment and commitment. I think what she says is relevant to being able to let go, to accept what I cannot change. She says that attachment closes down options, while commitment opens them up. Attachment leads to entrapment, while commitment leads to greater degrees of freedom.

Jesus was committed to the rich man, but not attached to him. The rich man was not committed, but instead was attached to his reputation as a moralistic rule follower and to his possessions, and this limited his options. He was entrapped by his image and his stuff. Jesus loved the man enough to give him the freedom to remain attached. This way of love may not seem like love to us, but time and again Jesus gives people the openness to choose for themselves. If we love as Jesus did, our hearts and lives and love become more open, and we may be better able to let go and accept what we cannot change.

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