This lent I have been exploring three themes, or challenges: loving, listening and letting go.
This reflection explores the idea, no action, of letting go whist offering the thought that if we are to let go of something negative then, the vacuum that is left must be filled with something else. These ‘something elses’ are given by God and, reveal to us the Divine character.
It seems to me letting go operates across three time horizons, the past, the present and the future and, what we are being asked to let go of, is the fanciful notion that we are somehow in perfect control and possess the ability to shape events. In reality we know this not to be true.
At the most basic level we can’t change our past, what has happened really has happened. In the words of a wise nun, ‘you can’t hope for a better past.’ The past just is the past. But, we can change our attitude towards the past. We can approach God and ask him to hold the past in His mercy, so reconciling us to the past and, providing us with the opportunity to forgive those who we feel (or know) to be complicit in shaping, for the worse, our back catalogue.
What of the present? Is it the case that our present anxieties can be symptoms of the knowledge that, despite our high expectations of ourselves, we are really not in control, that there is a certain randomness to life that no amount of effort, money or wishful thinking can mitigate? Is this what Jesus was acknowledging in Matthew 11, 28 and 29 ‘come unto me all you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls?’ Letting go of anxieties implies two movements: confession (to our anxieties) and placing ourselves in the arms of Love.
But surely as great and resourceful visionaries (after all we are obsessed with mission and vision) we can shape and control the future? Maybe to some extent, but don’t we all also know that ‘…. happens? On the positive side of life’s balance sheet we also experience unexpected joys, such as falling in love, being offered a new position seemingly out of nowhere, meeting an old friend with whom we had lost contact, and so on. Or what about the unexpected gift given at a time of need, when perhaps we really don’t deserve it (like the gift of God Himself). In letting go of the idea that we can control the future we need to trust in God and most importantly His providence. After all many of us are still alive and kicking in spite of our own best, or should it be worst, efforts?
However, we sometimes face a further problem for despite our best efforts we simply find it impossible to let go. Often we think we have let go only to find out that we haven’t. The nagging hatred, or festering resentment returns, we still wake up fearing the worst or carry the suspicion that our true shortcomings are about to be exposed. So what is to be done?
St. Benedict provides a possible answer, when he urges his monks to ask God to supply by grace that which we can’t achieve through our own ‘natural’ efforts. Grace is God’s ‘supernatural gift’ to fallible human beings. Just simply confessing our resentments and anxieties, those emotions that bind us, alongside our desire to let them go provides God with the chink through which he can start to pour in His grace.
So this Lent may we bring the past to the Lord placing it into His mercy, the present to the Lord asking for it to be held in the arms of His love and, the future to the Lord trusting firmly in His providence. May we live a grace filled life.