I remember my mama telling me that once you have a child, their whole life is just a slow, sweet process of letting go. I would smile and nod my head as she tried to articulate a life time of emotion that comes with that kind of understanding, but I couldn’t fully comprehend what she was trying to tell me.
Yet this morning, as I sat holding my 3 week old daughter to my chest, the tears came steadily and rolled silently down my cheeks. My moms words echoed in my mind and for the first time, I understood.
After miscarrying our first little one over four years ago now, I know the feeling of emptiness after losing a life – even one so small. I can testify to the ache of an empty womb and a broken heart. And this emptiness and ache that we can feel in seasons of loss can have the power to harden even the most tender of hearts, and clench the fists of hands once open and able to receive the many gifts that life has to give, if we let it.
And in all transparency, I did.
And then, four years later, after devastating diagnosis’ in doctors offices, many prayers said through bitter tears, and the toll of grieving month after month, we were gifted with the miracle of our sweet Elisabeth.
Ever since the night in December when I saw that positive sign on a pregnancy test, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of needing to close my hands tight around her and hold on with all that I am. I was terrified of the feeling of emptiness that I had known before and feared I could not live through again. And for those first few months especially, every time my heart began to burst with joy, dread would creep in right alongside it and overtake the wonder and awe of my miracle girl with the fear based question to which I couldn’t bear the answer to.
And Beloved, I know that there are a billion “what if…?” questions that seem logically worth asking. For more than ever before, it feels like our world gives us a billion reasons to fear. And for those that have experienced loss or pain in one form or another, we know that those “what if” questions aren’t all just hypothetical. Some of those “what if” questions really do become reality, and the scariest piece of it all is that we often lack any control to prevent them from happening.
… and so the fists clench, hearts harden, and fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.
And for the immediate moment, our self-protection might serve us and protect our hearts in a time when we can’t allow ourselves to fully feel when it isn’t safe to process pain. But in the long-term? Our clenched hands and hard walls around our heart will not only keep us from feeling pain…but from feeling anything else.
I know that the “what if…?” questions that sneak into our hearts are scary.
But what if we put “what if?” in perspective?
What if when we give fear even an inch it could steal from us a mile of joy?
What if when we allow our fists to clench tight, we actually rob ourselves of the ability to receive?
What if when we harden our hearts we lessen our ability to pour out love?
What if “what if’s?” don’t actually serve us at all?
Near the beginning of our pregnancy with Elisabeth, my dear husband, in all his wisdom, told me simply: “If we allow fear in now at 10 weeks, it will be there at 20 weeks, it will be there at her delivery, and as she turns 1, and 16, and 30.” In other words, once we choose to let it in and live by the question “what if?” fear is going to do its work over the long term within our hearts.
As I stared down at my sweet daughter this morning, with tears burning these tired eyes of mine, I had hundreds of these “what if..?” questions running through my mind. And I thought of my own mama and the process of letting go that she described.
There is so much that we cannot control.
And not only can we not control what may or may not happen to people we love, to dreams that we have, or to circumstances in our lives – we also can’t always control the ways that those things will impact our hearts.
And sometimes that is the scariest part of it all.
… Because I think at the end of the day we all just
want need to know that it will be okay; that we will be okay.
And it is right there, in the midst of the lack of control and fear that a holy invitation lies.
The invitation to let go.
The invitation to trust.
The invitation to receive.
I can hear the echo of Jesus words to the people that surrounded Him two thousand years ago…the same words that He still speaks to us today. “Come to Me.” (Matt 11:28)
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ invitation beautifully in the Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [Emphasis mine]
When we try to control, when we say yes to fear, when we live with clenched fists and hardened hearts… we live tired, worn out, and weary.
When we come and ‘let go’ – we begin to learn those unforced rhythms of grace.
Letting go does not mean distancing ourselves from people we love, or things that we are afraid to get hurt from out of self-protection.
Letting go instead invites us to entrust ourselves, all that we cling to and the questions that we fear the answers to, into the hands of God whose hands are big enough to hold all the circumstances that we will face and who loves to hold the beautiful mess of our hearts.
This sweet, slow process of letting go is a journey of learning to trust rather than allowing fear to rob all the joy out of living. It is a leap of faith that believes that God can handle all the unknowns, that Christ walks with us in the midst of it, and that if our hearts are wholly undone that even that can be holy. It is less about painfully giving up things and more about posturing ourselves to receive.
So, lets ask a different kind of what if question today.
What if you traded in fear for trust?
What if you responded to the invitation to let go?
What if you opened your hands to receive?
What if your entire life could change because you focused on these “what if” questions?
… and the amazing thing about these questions?
You can actually choose to do something about them AND God has already told us what the outcomes will be if we respond to His invitation!!
When we come to Him – He teaches us a new way to live.
When we let go of our clenched fists and fears – He helps us live freely and lightly.
So, what do you say?
Take a leap of faith with me on this one?