21 Mar Letting Go…By Letting God In
This is a strange time.
A time when pandemic numbers, at least here in the United States, are improving and things are relaxing… at least for now. And, yet a time fraught with images of Russia’s ravaging assault on Ukraine and of the now over 3 million displaced people pouring primarily into Poland.
A time when we can see, sense, even smell the earth coming back to life as winter’s grip slowly slips. And, yet a time when the cumulative consequence of consumerism’s strain on the environment is more alarmingly clear than ever.
A time when we are freshly reminded of humanity’s capacity to pivot, adapt, recognize, care, and create, as well as our capacity (and willingness) to defer, deny, diminish, divide, and destroy.
A time when Jesus’ message of love is as blessedly relevant as ever. And, yet a time when churches struggle to captivate people’s attention for a host of reasons, but one of those reasons being that the Church has not always represented Jesus as He ought to have been represented.
A strange time, indeed.
In such a time as this, it’s tempting to turn a blind eye or to dwell solely on the positive or the negative (to the exclusion of the other). It’s easy (dangerously easy!) to withdraw. But desperately harder… to let go.
That’s certainly how I feel.
And what does letting go even mean? How do we do it? And, what’s the benefit?
Surely, letting go doesn’t mean deciding not to care. It doesn’t mean trying to deny our worries, be they worldly or personal. Because that only ensures they’ll continue to haunt us. I’ve experienced that inescapable truth in my life (many times!). And I imagine you’ve experienced this same truth in yours.
Nor does letting go mean giving up the belief that we, as humans possess the power to effect change—whether in ourselves or in the world around us. Because that belief would be false. Not to mention harmful. Jesus reminds us—with every word, deed, and miracle of his earthly ministry—that we positively do possess the power to effect change. But Jesus also reminds us that we cannot wield this power alone. To truly effect change—the kind of change that makes each of us a more loving person and our world a more loving place—we need one another. And we need God.
So, perhaps, letting go—the kind of letting go that actually gets us somewhere and that solves rather than creates problems—is about letting God in. It’s letting go of the belief that God is an afterthought. That God is a resource only to be accessed when we’ve exhausted others, and when our wanton (and very Western) wish to go it alone has yet again left us short. Even when I think I’m really letting God in, how often I find that I’m still holding on in a way that keeps God out. Even when I think I’m doing a good job of embracing Jesus’ invitation to lean on him, how often I realize that I’m leaning far more heavily on my independence.
Letting go by letting God in pays dividends. Both immediate. And immense. Our problems no longer seem as daunting. Our sense of peace is linked not to life’s ups and downs but to the loving God who guides us in those ups and downs. And we’re both freed to celebrate what’s joyful and just, as well as fortified to confront what’s not.
Plus, the more we let go and let God in, the more we condition ourselves to trust God, and to believe in the One who so steadfastly believes in us.
The practice of letting go by letting God in (ever more deeply) is freeing any time. At any stage in life. But all the more so in a time that’s as disorientingly mixed, demonstrably challenging—and strange—as this one is… for each of us, for churches, and for our world.
The Rev. Jeff Braun is the Senior Pastor of Winnetka Congregational Church, a progressive, LGBTQ-inclusive, justice-oriented and family-friendly church on the north side of Chicago. His calling is to share God’s word of love as spoken through Jesus, to make sure that everyone knows they have a seat at the table and to help us all recognize our oneness in God and with all God’s children.