Letting Go

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Several years ago, a high-rise construction worker experienced the ultimate nightmare.
He lost his balance.   
He would have fallen except that he managed to wrap his fingers around an iron beam.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have the strength or the leverage to pull himself back up. 
He screamed for help.  But it was a noisy worksite and everyone on his team was attending to something else.
He hung there for a long stretch of minutes.  Finally the strength in his hands gave out.  In total despair he let go and fell – approximately eight feet to the scaffolding that he did not know was directly below him.
Even though we’ve always heard that spiritual surrender is simple – and that we will in fact survive the experience – most of us cultivate dark fantasies about what will happen if we actually let go and abandon ourselves to God. 
Irish theologian Peter Rollins writes, “This is not something done by working ourselves up and trying to find the right way of thinking and acting, but rather in letting go and opening up to the transformative power of God.”  Letting go means releasing our hold on the fears, addictions, and prideful dreams that have long dominated our lives – or rather, allowing God to cripple the power that such forces have long exerted over us. 
But to be honest, most of us aren’t about to pursue that kind of transformation without a fight.
The Christian life begins with an act of surrender.  What ought to follow is a lifetime of surrender.  North American churches have tended to major on the former while seriously underplaying the latter.
The journey of following Jesus requires an initial act of radical trust.  Having heard the good news, and being convicted of its validity, we are stopped in our tracks.  We abandon the path we have been traveling and turn in the opposite direction.  This is called repentance. 
Counting not on what we think we have achieved through our most strenuous efforts at spiritual self-improvement, but relying humbly on the grace of God, we surrender.  We wave the white flag.  As best we can we place our minds, bodies, wills, and emotions in the service of Jesus, who makes good on his promise never to leave us by filling us with the Holy Spirit. 
This simple act of self-surrender is so transforming that it is appropriately called “conversion.”  Essentially, we receive the first installment of a complete life makeover. 
Way too many church leaders, unfortunately, have lent the impression that conversion means Game Over.  There has been an astonishing lack of teaching that our initial act of surrender is also the doorway to surrender as a way of life.   With the Spirit’s help, we are finally ready to address the fact that our thinking, our reflexes, and our choices – which have been habitually enmeshed with What Has Always Worked for Me – now need to be realigned with the priorities of our new Master.
Because we believe that Jesus is eternally holding on to us, our response is to do everything we can, for the rest of our lives, to hold on to him.  Discipleship begins with a moment of surrender.  But it has to morph into surrender as a never-ending personal practice.
How can we possibly do that? 
It’s the easiest thing in the world.  You just let go and abandon yourself to God.
But of course that’s what makes it the hardest thing in the world.  You must let go and abandon yourself to God.
Here’s how Jesus put it:  We give up a life we cannot keep in order to gain a life we cannot lose.
Letting go may seem like the scariest of all options.  The ultimate freefall nightmare.
That’s why it’s good to remember Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”