Let It Go
October 11, 2015

Let It Go

Passage: Mark 10:17-31

If you have children of a certain age, or young grandchildren, there is a strong chance you have heard the song, “Let it Go”.  It is from the soundtrack of the Disney blockbuster “Frozen” in which the newly crowned Queen Elsa to turn things to ice to inadvertently plunge her kingdom into a never-ending winter.  The song made it into the top five of the Billboard top 100 songs and garnered two Academy Awards.  It has been recorded in 42 languages, and is regularly belted out by children everywhere.


Let it go.


In the movie, Elsa is letting go of who others want her to be, she’s letting go of the pressure to be someone she isn’t even as she is claiming herself.  And I am struck by this ongoing theme in our lives.  Disney’s song is just the latest iteration of a long line of calls to let go or relinquish control.  Somehow, as humans we understand that it is never healthy to cling too tightly to something temporal, regardless how worthy it might be.


We speak of people being tight fisted, or control freaks, micromanagers, or obsessed.  We have probably all seen the effects of unresolved resentments and bitterness in the lives of those around us, and maybe we’re even today haunted by our own past injuries and wounds.  Still, it is difficult to let go.  Particularly when holding on gives us some sort of comfort—if only the comfort of the familiar.


This morning, we hear Mark’s version of the young wealthy man and his request of Jesus.  “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus responds that he must sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.  This famous exchange has been fodder for sermons and ideologies, and calls for social justice and reform.  It has undoubtedly been used to berate and shame those children of God who have more, just has it has provided a false sense of security for those who have less—as if those who are living on the margins could slip right through the eye of a needle.


But maybe, just maybe, there’s more to Jesus’s invitation than simply the size of one’s stock portfolio or bank account.  Wealth is a construct-- the definition of which changes with the context in which it is used; however, it most usually has to do with an abundance of some kind--be it financial, intellectual, or informational.  We talk about wealth in terms of experience, or opportunities, or friendships.  Whatever the specifics, wealth in our world is something to be prized.  And that, I think, is where we can easily get out of sync with what Jesus is calling us to today.


When we have a wealth of resources at our disposal—be they financial or intellectual—it is tempting to believe we have all we need for a successful life.  We have the means to protect ourselves, or to solve problems, or to make things happen.  On our own.  We don’t really need anyone else to navigate our daily lives.  We are self-sufficient, captains of our destinies.

And while those attributes track with the American ideal of individualism and self-reliance, they don’t really jive so well with the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


It is no secret that Jesus has a preference for the poor and outsiders.  Time and again we see him encouraging those without, inviting the outcast in, and healing the dregs of his society.


But I don’t believe the theological point of his preference had to do so much with what someone had or didn’t have, as much as it had to do with this notion of self-reliance versus unqualified dependence.


Those in Jesus’ time who didn’t have resources of their own were willing to depend on God – utterly.  There existed no fantasy in their minds of being able to save for their futures, or put money away for a rainy day.  That possibility was as unlikely for them as a camel’s ability to pass through the eye of a needle.  It was a time of limited goods; there was only one pie and everyone got a piece—however meager.   But what they did have, was spaciousness.  They had room in their lives for God to move—for the miraculous to occur.  When all a person’s resources are depleted, there is only one source of sustenance—God.


“Give us this day our daily bread” we pray, and yet it is so easy for those of us who have wealth, whatever form it takes, to forget that in reality, we have no real power or control in our lives.  It is difficult, when we are well fed, and clothed, and educated; when we have opportunities, and friends, and some money stashed in our cookie jars or IRAs, to remember that we, too, are utterly dependent upon God—the very ground of our being.


And that is the lesson that Jesus lovingly offers to the wealthy young man.  He had abided by the ‘shall nots’ of the Ten Commandments his entire life, but when it came to the possibility of undergoing real transformation—of knowing God in a way he never had by doing something radical, he was unable.


It is a difficult thing to let go—certainly to let go of our monetary treasures, but also to let go of the other attachments that enslave us.


Richard Rohr, in his book “Simplicity:  The Freedom of Letting Go”, writes:


In what sense are we ourselves rich?  What do we have to defend? What principles do we have to prove?  What keeps us from being poor and open?  The issue isn’t primarily material goods, but our spiritual and intellectual goods–my ego, my reputation, my self-image, my need to be right, my need to be successful, my need to have everything under control, my need to be loved.[1]


We are so accustomed to holding on, the idea of letting go is daunting—what might be left?


You may have heard me speak, at one time or another, about my mother.

My mom, Geneva, was brilliant and had a wealth of capabilities.  She took care of all the family finances, and schedules.  She knew what needed to be done when, and by whom.


She was the family almanac.  She was the one who remembered all the facts:  all the important dates, where the vaccination records were kept, which of her children owed her money and how much, how much she and Dad spent for which house, and when—not to mention the terms of the sale.


She also remembered slights.  She remembered her injuries; the people who had done her wrong, and who never quite lived up to her expectations of them.  She brought us up to believe that needing another person was a sure sign of weakness and we should never allow ourselves to be dependent upon another.  Trust me, she had her own compelling reasons for this belief, but it is a difficult lesson nonetheless.


And then, something kind of miraculous happened.


Mom began forgetting things.  Small things at first, but then she began to lose her words and her sense of time.  Eventually, she couldn’t keep track of where we’d lived, or the names of her family members.  And, she forgot her injuries.  She forgot her resentments, she forgot her anger, and she forgot the image of herself she had been so determined to cultivate for so long.  She forgot her Self—her constructed self—until all that remains, is the Geneva that God has intended her to be all along.


She is loving, and she is lovable.  She is happy.  She is kind.  She likes to be hugged and she lets me hold her hand.  She tells me she loves me.


She has become dependent upon others for the daily routine of her life.  She is utterly dependent upon God for her days, and as a consequence, God has revealed to her and in her, love and sweetness, and a glimpse into what eternity in God looks like.


My mom is more present to each day than I have ever been.  She is completely in the moment and teaches me what losing our wealth in order to enjoy eternal life really means.


Transformation takes time and letting go is a process—I invite you to try letting go of just one thing this week.  Release control over one small area of your life to God and see what transpires.  Make some room for the Almighty to move in your soul and through your days, and you will be blessed and be a blessing to this hurting world.


[1]               Richard Rohr, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go, rev. and updated ed. (New York: Crossroad Pub., ©2003), 168.

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