letting go

For someone who likes to be in control, I have become very practiced in the art of letting go. Not that it gets easier, mind you. In this case, practice most definitely does not make perfect.

Last night, I watched as a vintage Laura Ashley coffee mug, one of a pair I had found years ago in a charity shop, was scattered into sharp-edged chunks as it fell from its precarious perch, where my 11 year old had placed it, onto the unforgiving tiled floor of our Spanish home.

And I chose - admittedly after a significant internal struggle - to let go. You might think that I didn’t really have a choice, since the thing was by now in pieces on the floor. But there was a moment when, groping for some metaphysical miracle of restoration, something inside me felt the mug and all it represented in terms of having things the way I like them to be more important than my 11 year old, standing before me with a crestfallen look on her face, wishing the past 5 seconds could be undone. As was I.

I recognise this feeling, this moment of choosing. Sometimes it is momentary, as with the rather lovely, irreplaceable mug. Sometimes it is a far longer process of looking squarely at two apparently decent decisions and deciding: this is good, this is not so good (for now, for me, for us, for getting us to a particular destination). And so, sometimes gently, sometimes desperately and with tears, or a line of colourful language running through my head, I choose to let go of something that seems, on the surface at least, to be a good thing.

a small kind of dying

I let go of having a fixed salary, or a fixed place to call home. I let go of living close to family and friends. I let go of living kid-free, with all the orderliness, free time and Laura Ashley mugs I thought that would bring me. I let go of the idea that my kids should look like me, or have any kind of story other than the one I myself am part of.

And now I find myself in another season of letting go. I am letting go of thinking I am right and the other person, the one who disagrees with me, hurts or disappoints me, is wrong. I am letting go of thinking I know better, or know much of anything really, when time has proven that what I think I know is so very limited and unreliable. I am letting go of being understood, thought well of, appreciated or admired. I am letting go of my view of the world (or the team, or the church) and how I think it should run. I am letting go of my need to be significant, or accomplished.

And yes, there is still that moment of choice, when the thing that seemed so very important tugs on my being and tempts me to want to hold on by grasping and hustling. But last night, as I chose to let the blue and white mug fall into its proper place of relative insignificance, and looked into my daughter’s face to remind her that accidents happen and that she wasn’t in trouble, I knew I was choosing the right thing. The thing that would lead to connection and goodness. 

And in the end, that’s what it’s all about. We let go because we are being given something larger, something we cannot hold unless we first release our grip.

Madeleine L’Engle says the letting go can only truly happen “if I die first, only if I am willing to die. I am mortal, flawed, trapped in my own own skin, my own barely used brain, I do not understand this death, but I am learning to trust it. Only through this death can come the glory of resurrection; only through this death can come birth” (from Walking on Water).

I agree, and perhaps you do too, that letting go can feel like a small kind of dying. (And sometimes not so small, let’s be honest.) Could it be that “without this death, nothing is born. And if we die willingly, no matter how frightened we may be, we will be found and born anew into life, and life more abundant” (also L’Engle)?

For Reflection:

In what areas of your life do you recognise these moments of choosing to let go? To what extent does the letting go feel like a small death? And in what way do you sense that, as you say yes to this dying, there may be something deeper and richer into which you are being invited?