This past Sunday I had the honor of serving as guest pastor at a church while the regular pastor was away. The church happens to be using our Lenten booklet, "Letting Go with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind" in their adult forum so I had the opportunity to speak with the group while I was there. The people gathered for the forum clearly already had a strong sense of trust with one another and therefore were quite ready to share openly what was on their minds. I was so moved by the conversation that we had that I would like to share some of it with you here. I started out by asking the group of twenty-five people, ranging in age from early their thirties to their early nineties, what kinds of challenges they were facing regarding "letting go." The responses were as immediate as they were heartfelt.
"I struggle with letting go when it comes to my adult children. It's important for me to remember that it is their life, not mine."
"I struggle to let go of anger."
"For me, it's a challenge to let go of grudges--to forgive people that have hurt me." (In response to this, another person spoke of the relief they felt after having recently finally let go of a grudge they had been holding onto for forty years.)
"Perfectionism and self-criticism are what I struggle to let go of." (Several others nodded their head in agreement with the speaker.)
A ninety-three year old person offered, "I am far too critical of someone I know--often just in my own mind--but it is still something I need to learn to let go of. I have recently been focusing on seeing the good in her."
"I keeping trying to let go of control. I let it go and then I take it right back again!"
The comment that seemed to most resonate with the group was, "I am such a worrier-I am really working on letting go of my worries."
"Letting go of loss is what has been hardest for me," was shared with obvious feelings of sadness and grief.
I was so moved by the depth of what was offered by these authentic folks. It was such a powerful reminder for me that within all of us, just beneath the surface of most of our seemingly calm exteriors, there are many feelings of vulnerability related to the worries, hurts, and fears that we carry. It may seem counter-intuitive, but listening to others who were struggling with various kinds of "letting go" was actually a positive and uplifting experience as we all felt supported and connected by what we shared.
During the last portion of our time together, I asked those present what gave them hope and what helped them to deal with the challenges of letting go that they had shared. The first response offered was affirmed by many others, "The community of people in this church over the last twenty years is what has helped me through many different challenges related to letting go." Equally important for those present was the role of their faith. "'Let go and let God' sounds cliche, but that way of living and thinking is really is what helps me the most," was affirmed by a woman who clearly seemed to know this from experience. Family and friends were also high on the list as being essential in helping people to let go.
Life happens. Loss happens. Hurt happens. Change happens. Our group made this all very clear. At the same time, though, they affirmed that: healing happens, forgiveness happens, self-acceptance happens, and faith happens. New beginnings can, and do, happen.
I am grateful to have spent time with this inspiring group of people, who reminded me once again of the healing power of faith and community.