A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon on the trust psalms, particularly Psalm 27, entitled, “Trust, Perseverance, and Doggedness.” When I went hunting for a closing hymn for the service, I stumbled upon a relatively new one entitled, “Faith Begins by Letting Go.”
While I ended up selecting it for the service, I felt a bit puzzled by the title, the lyrics, and the sentiment. The first stanza is as follows:
Faith begins by letting go
Giving up what had seemed sure
Taking risks and pressing on
Though the way feels less secure
Pilgrimage both right and odd
Trusting all our life to God
I wasn’t sure I believed that faith begins by letting go of our foundation, taking risks, and that one’s pilgrimage should feel “both right and odd.” Still, something about the hymn seemed to resonate with the content of my sermon, especially the ode to one of the great contemporary spiritual writers, Anne Lamott, on perfectionism and they way in which our writing cramps up around our wounds as in life.
These past few weeks I’ve encountered my own cramps and struggles to write, and am starting to believe in this whole wisdom of letting go.
You see I was having a lot of trouble getting my thoughts to find substance and clarity on the page, writing and rewriting pages and pages of an article on my research with foster mothers in China. I kept thinking that despite my frustrations, I needed to have faith that these meanderings, however seemingly futile, had some semblance of progress and that I would eventually find my way if I kept at it.
However, this morning during my prayer time I realized that in the writing process, I’d started to lose the joy and excitement that is so genuine to my work with families in China. And I decided to give myself the freedom to reflect freely on what I learned and what I love about the families I worked with. In a away, I decided to free myself from the burden of writing something smart and relevant and pertinent to the academy and instead tap back into what these families, this culture, and these people taught me about God and life.
And suddenly I was at no lack for thoughts, ideas, and even words on the page.
I recalled, rather crudely, what these foster mothers had taught me about my own neediness for God and for others, and that true kinship, true family, is not about blood, choice, or even love, but our deep need for one another.
I love that as I yielded to venture away from what I think I know or how I think I should say it, God let me back to my own need for God and others, and this great sense of unity that in my deepest being I have for my vocation as both a scholar and a minister.
I’m so thankful for the wisdom of letting go today–not only because it’s getting me closer to getting this article down on the page, but because it’s taking me to a revelation that I couldn’t have found on my own, by my own strength, might, or wisdom. It’s making clear my need to rely on God and others for insight, faith, encouragement, grace, and communion.
And despite how scary that is, it’s an an amazing place to be.