By Tom Carter
Letting go is difficult, and unfortunately, there are many different situations in life where we are compelled to let go. And my experience raising children has taught me that no two people let things go at the same time or in the same way. In fact, it seems that one doesn’t know how much something means to them until they are asked to relinquish it. For instance, our oldest child gave up his bottle easily when he turned one, but later held on to his pacifiers long after we thought they were gone. The tricky little guy had hidden extra passies in various locations throughout the house. So, it took a while to wean him off the pacifiers because he had a plan replenish them when they were gone. He had outsmarted us and planned not to let go!
This is not unlike many of us who, knowing it is time to let go and move on, continue to find ways to hold on to things. This was very evident in my life this year as we prepared to move. At first thought, gathering up our things didn’t seem like a big deal, after all the family and I don’t really use a lot of stuff on a daily basis. However, as I began the task of packing, it became clear that I (and we) had held on to literally tons of stuff that had long been obsolete in our life but for some reason we had felt a need to hold on to. In the end I piled years of items that had once been needed by, or precious to me on the curb for disposal.
As much as many of us joke about being packrats with our possessions, this inability to let go does hold us back. It might be funny, but it is also a problem. But what about other things we hold on to? Things like traditions that no one else understands, prejudices, old wounds, shame, and the pride of past successes. Do these things help us grow and move forward? Or is the weight of things that were once relevant keeping me from new and better experiences?
As Moses led the Israelites to the edge of there promised land God commanded him to send spies into the land to scout the terrain and inhabitants (Numbers 13-14). When the twelve scouts returned with samples of the fruit growing on the land, they reported that it was indeed good country. While Caleb demonstrated faith by imploring the people to go into the land and conquer it as God instructed, only he, Moses and Joshua were willing to do so. The other scouts and the people immediately fell back on their old “if only we stayed in Egypt” line. You see like many of us the people of Israel had never cleared the clutter of the past and quickly fell back on it when a challenge arose.
In the same way that those piles of old stuff block us from using our garages and closets, years of unresolved problems and faulty thinking often paralyze us when new opportunities arise. Ultimately, God rejected the generation of Israelites who refused to accept the challenge of conquering the promised land. You see, because they decided God wasn’t enough to see them to victory, they were defeated before they started.
Today’s church is faced with a similar situation. We stand the edge of a huge cultural shift and those who have long cherished their church experiences find it difficult to simply hand the keys over to a new generation that is so different. It is important however, to remember that it is not our church, it is God’s, and he will take care of it.