July 26, 2014
A few weeks ago my aunt died suddenly. My cousins now have to decide what should happen to all her things. How do you dispose of your mother’s precious possessions in a way that doesn’t dishonour her memory? At the same time you have to realistically admit that there are many things that no one will ever use. It can be a difficult and emotional challenge.
I am also helping Heather’s parents make similar decisions as they try to downsize from a four bedroom family home to a two bedroom unit. What things will fit? What things do we still need? What things can we no longer use? What things hold such precious memories that we can’t yet give away?
Letting go is always difficult. It usually feels like we are losing something; our life is being diminished in some way. They are dying moments. It is as if some things that once held significance in our lives are losing their importance.
The material things might be reminders of relationships; they might call our attention to particular people. But the things themselves cannot replace those relationships, nor can their loss take anything away from those relationships.
Throughout our lives we have had to deal with times of relinquishment, letting go, moving on. When our family left Gladstone, it was very difficult for our children. Gladstone was where they experienced seven years of their childhood and made close friends. Each of our children still has close friends that they made in Gladstone. I tried to help them understand that if God was calling me to serve the church in Rockhampton, then God must have something good to bring to their lives in Rockhampton as well. We could not yet tell what lay ahead, but since we believed that God only wants what is good for us, we needed to be open to the possibilities.
After the removal van left Rockhampton six years later, we sat on the floor in the empty lounge room and talked together about what we each had experienced in Rockhampton that we could not have experienced in Gladstone. Every one of us could tell of good experiences that had come during our time in Rockhampton. Together we gave thanks to God for his bringing us to Rockhampton.
No matter how good our past has been, when we try to hold onto that past we are in danger of missing out on what God has for our future. Our hands can be so full, we are not in a position to receive new gifts from God. Life affirming relinquishment is a life skill that requires discernment and practice.
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane knew this struggle. He sensed that what lay ahead was painful and frightening. It was not going to be easy and he would dearly loved to have a different choice to make. He pleaded with God that things might stay as they were; “that this cup might pass from me”. However he came to a deliberate point of relinquishment. “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
This relinquishment, this dying moment, allowed Jesus the courage and power to go through all the injustice and pain that led to the final relinquishment on the cross, when he was able to say. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23: 46)
Out of that terrible experience God brought the resurrection of Jesus. The relinquishment of this life brought the new and wonderful life beyond the grave. This is what gives me the confidence that as we walk with God, there is nothing that we let go or lose, that compares with what God wishes to give us in return.
At my aunt’s funeral we sang a song written by Frank Anderson, called “Galilee Song”. The first verse says:
Deep within my heart I feel voices whispering to me,
Words that I can’t understand, meanings I can’t clearly hear,
Calling me to follow close, lest I leave myself behind,
Calling me to walk into evening shadows one more time!
So I leave my boats behind, leave them on familiar shores,
Set my heart upon the deep, follow you again my Lord!