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Letting Go

It's not the big things, but the little things that are nearly impossible to unhand.

I heard the toilet flush, followed by my toddler's "Uh-oh." Entering the bathroom, I found her beside the bowl, staring stoically at her older sister's beloved Peter Pan paper dolls, circling round and round inside. Poised and dignified, smiles still on their faces, Mr. Smee and Captain Hook were indeed off to Never Never Land.

Moments later, her big sister's tears and questions flowed: Why did she do it? Where are they going? Can we get them back? Like her piratey play pals, we went in circles trying to make sense of it all, find comfort, and move on.

I understand. After all, "letting go" isn't just for children. But my most difficult partings haven't always been the biggest ones. Often it's those "little things" I hold firmly in my grasp that are nearly impossible to unhand.

After much internal debate, I became convinced that God was asking me to let go of chocolate for a time. Sounds crazy, I know. The notion seemed foolish, pointless, and insignificant. After all, in the grand scheme, how does a candy bar or milkshake make a difference?

Then again, how did a piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden make a difference? Or a loaf of bread in the wilderness? Clearly food had little to do with what God was after. And my difficulty in parting with the tasty item hinted at the bigger issue: loving God more than chocolate.

So one less bite at a time, I took the challenge. It's a small sacrifice. Noah and Abraham left behind their known worlds. Job lost family and possessions, as did the prophets and disciples when they were called. Christ parted with all the glories of heaven—and then life itself.

So you and I are called to nothing less. We're to follow in these footsteps of faith. And ironically, while it feels like a death sentence, it's really a call to life. In John 12:24-25, Jesus explained it like this: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity."

In being willing to let go of the things we hold tightly, we're free to get a better grip on the things that will truly last, like learning to love God with all our being and loving others as ourselves. Instead of being out to spoil our fun, God's gentle leading to "let go" is an invitation to grow in faith and to go in faith, to a more abundant life.

Unfortunately, knowing these truths doesn't make the partings easier. Here's how to put down the little things and pick up God's promises instead:

Admit that you don't want to let go. In John 8:32, Jesus said that "the truth will set you free." Admit to God how you feel about it. Share your thoughts, feelings, anxieties, and fears. He can handle all of them—and help us handle them too. God already knows where you are on the issue. But without being honest with ourselves before him, we'll never step out in faith. Know where you're starting from.

Ask for the strength to let go. Although it takes great strength to hold onto things, it takes much more strength to let go. The apostle Paul could relate: "I have learned the secret of living in every situation … I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).

Focus on the joy set before you. Letting go of most things is just for a time. Psalm 30:5 reminds us that "weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." As Christ was able to endure the cross by working toward the "joy awaiting him," so we can pattern our lives in the same way.

Celebrate new life in Christ. If we let go of our life in this world, we'll keep it for all eternity (John 12:25). Though it's not something we can experience right now, we can start celebrating today. We can repeat Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" Now that's worth celebrating!

Dying to ourselves will never be easy, but it will always be blessed. Already, I've watched my decision to set aside chocolate produce greater spiritual fruit. And while my daughter can't have her paper pals back, she received a solid foundation in offering forgiveness and extending grace, starting with her sister. And these are worth holding on to.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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God's Will; Purpose; Sacrifice; Submission
Today's Christian Woman, March/April , 2011
Posted March 1, 2011

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