Letting Go While Letting Go

View from hammock.
This post was first shared at inspireafire.com.

There are always two parts to letting go.

Whether it’s a person, an idea, a dream, or a relationship, there is the letting go of the thing (which is a book unto itself). Then there is the letting go of the emotions that accompany the letting go.

If you’ve ever gone through this, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then stick this in your pocket, friend, because some day this may help you.

The emotions of letting go don’t knock politely and enter one at a time. They tear down your windows and doors, blow off your roof, and attack your foundation. They come in waves, first as one feeling and then another: fear, sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, resignation.

Letting go of the thing without letting go of the accompanying emotions hardens your heart. You need to “let go in love” as author Melody Beattie has said. Otherwise the dark emotions become an unforgiving root within you.

The question is: how do we do this?

It’s not possible to push emotions away. Like the evil spirit who came out of a man and brought back seven other spirits more wicked than itself (Matthew 12:43-45), trying to simply sweep away emotions often causes them to get stronger. Instead, emotions need to be walked through.

There have been experiences in my life where writing a single letter regenerated my insides. More often, I am still catching a flare-up several years later. Emotions are like a red hot poker. I keep circling until it has cooled enough to grab onto and extract. In the meantime, every time I touch it, I get burned.

Every burn is a reminder that letting go is not a one and done process. And every burn is a reminder that I need to consciously ask God to help me understand what I need to learn from this emotion and replace it with a more appropriate fruit of the spirit.

I am learning that one way to extract a burning emotion is to grow a new one until it is large enough to displace the old. Here are some I am exploring.

Replace fear with trust. The more I learn to trust God, the less power fear has in my life. Building trust takes time and happens so gradually I can miss it growing. I need to pay attention when God cares for me, because the more I notice Him working in my life, the more I begin to trust Him.

Replace resignation with hope. By its very nature, resignation seems to be an embedded element of letting go – being resigned to the ending of something I once held dear. Yet the Bible says we have been given a living hope. Even when all else fails, hope remains. Maybe not hope in the thing which we are letting go, although God may do something there, too. More importantly, hope in what God will do next. No matter the situation, there is a burning in my spirit that tells me that out of this, even this, God works for good. God can bring beauty from ashes. Begin to think about that.

Replace sadness with happiness. It’s not possible to simply manufacture happiness. But I’m finding moments of contentment can be a close cousin. Expressing gratitude for the simplest things starts me down the path of appreciation and contentment; feelings of happiness aren’t too much further down the road, even if I don’t feel them yet.

Replace anger with peace. The coolness of peace is as slow to develop as the heat of anger is fast to flash. I circle that red hot poker like the walls of Jericho waiting for it to crumble. There is no shortcut. Anger is the emotion that tells us a personal boundary was crossed or an expectation wasn’t met. We may need to step through and identify those foundational causes while we cling to the peace of God’s promises to us. He will be our vindicator. He will teach us how to seek peace and pursue it. He promises to us that He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast upon Him.

There is a great exchange that God offers to us. It started with Jesus on the cross, but it continues into every thought, word, and action we express. As we grow the fruits of the spirit planted within us, He will help us to let go.

In letting go, we find ourselves clinging to that which we most need to cling: God Himself.

Waiting Patiently – A New Understanding of Rest

I originally shared this post at http://www.inspireafire.com/waiting-patiently-a-new-understanding-of-rest/. I hope you enjoy!

Hammock

Fall always seems like the busiest time of year. School is back in session. Work emails quadruple. Outside it’s the season of harvest – that narrow window where all the accumulation from the summer sun must be bundled in before the winter. And just the other day I heard a flock of geese sounding their way south. Already!

Despite the bustle of the changing season, I’ve found myself staring out the window and thinking not about all I have to do (though there is plenty). I find myself thinking instead about the exact opposite.

Autumn orchardI’m thinking about rest.

Perhaps because I’ve had more changes at work and home than I generally care to tackle all at once, but summer seems to have slipped by without me noticing. I’m staring into the tumult of fall and yearning for rebirth, for regeneration, for the hope of spring.

It seems a long time away.

I find myself gravitating to scripture passages like “He gives to his beloved sleep.” And “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Not my typical “no time to be idle” fall verses. But I pause when I study Psalm 37:7, which in the King James Version says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

At first reading, this verse has the same soothing balm as the others. Then I look up the original Greek.

The word translated as “wait patiently” is not the wait-in-this-sunny-meadow kind of waiting that I first assumed. It isn’t even the cast-your-cares-upon-the-Lord-and-stop-worrying kind of waiting. The word actually means to writhe in pain as in child birth.

I do not like this.

I want to think about waiting patiently as something pleasant. Something I can meditate on while drifting off to sleep. I don’t want nightmares of writhing in pain.

But the more I’ve thought about this, the more I see the hope embedded in the words. The connotation is one of enduring, with the promise of a joy so complete as to make the pain worthwhile. “A woman giving birth has pain,” Jesus said, “but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy.” (John 16:21)

View from hammock.Waiting patiently for God is sometimes hard work. Resting in the Lord may not always mean peaceful slumber. God’s transforming power in our lives may in fact feel like our insides are writhing. But this transformation also comes with the promise of a peace and joy so complete as to make our current trials seem light and momentary, even if they don’t feel that way right now.

The springtime regeneration I am looking forward to actually begins now. Now – as I snuggle into the fall season, holding onto God’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me. I can trust that He will bring to completion the good works begun in me. He will give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to walk out the path He has laid before me. He will restore my soul and make my joy complete. He will do all this, as I rest in and wait patiently for Him.

Resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him may not be the lazy summer day kind of resting that I first envisioned. It might be more of a fall activity after all.

And it might be exactly the type of rest I am actually yearning for.