Learning to Let Go

Who might you need to let go in order to move on?A part of the spiritual life is letting go of people that cannot and will not go with you. There’s a part in each one of us that would like to get everybody on the bus to go with us to our chosen destination. Yet, along the way we have to face the fact that some people do not want to get on the bus and simply will not get on the bus. They want to stay where they are. They are comfortable to remain as they have always been and always been told to be.Letting go of people is a challenge for those of us who grow, transform and morph. Perhaps, we secretly think it would validate us if we could persuade those in the margins; those who have not made up their minds; those who have not decided; those who are formed, fixed and set in cement in their own persuasions.I am not the same man I was. This week, Gwen and I celebrated our 35th Wedding Anniversary. We reminisced last night how much we have changed over these three plus decades. We’re not the same—and together we gave thanks that the seeds of transformation had, indeed, taken root in each of us. We’re more loving; more kind; more sensitive; more deeply spiritual and more thankful for each and every change. Does any healthy person ever really want to remain the same?As we have changed, so have our friends. As we have morphed so has our understanding of friendship and community. As we both have “put aside childish ways”, we have greater insight, wisdom and faith.We wish that all of our friends had joined us on this remarkable journey of transformation. But they did not. Some never boarded our bus. Some got off the bus.  Some thought our bus was a wrong bus to take in the first place.Let me explain. When Jesus called the tax collector , Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13), he beckoned him with these very familiar words, “Follow me!” OK. We all know this. We see Matthew doing exactly what Jesus invited him to do. He followed a different path. This is often read, quoted and preached upon. Yet remarkably what happens next in this story is not often explored.Matthew has a dinner party where he invites his friends to experience the finesse, charisma and teaching of Jesus. Maybe Matthew like me, was trying to manipulate a people group to get on the same bus. Maybe, he was, like so many preachers have said, having an evangelistic dinner party.This is where the push back happens. This is precisely where Matthew, like me—and perhaps you as well—had to let go of his friends and community to truly follow Jesus. The Pharisees—the people group that Matthew was use to hanging around asked some probing questions of Matthew:“Why does YOUR teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners?” Notice their (the Pharisees who Matthew had himself invited) snide slant of language in accentuating whose teacher was coloring outside the lines!  YOUR teacher...YOUR new deal...YOUR new insight.It is here where Jesus says something that I have somehow missed until this morning in my reading. He says, that famous line, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick…” (Matthew 9:12). But Jesus then offers us the key to our own spiritual growth in understanding true friendship and authentic community.He says, “Go and learn what this means….”  Sometimes, people have to "go" away---go through other seasons of life---go to other churches--other cities--perhaps even other religions until they are ready. We cannot control the journey of other people--no matter how much we might want to.  I cannot control the spiritual pilgrimage of my children. I cannot control the spiritual pilgrimage of my teammates. I cannot control who gets on the bus or off the bus. I am truly ONLY a passenger--a pilgrim myself.I found it disturbing that when I "googled" for an image of tears, there is not one image of a man crying.When Jesus says, “Go and learn…” he is releasing folks to the process of transformation which says:-You are not ready to truly “Follow me.”-You need to do more internal work and then perhaps you’ll be ready to “Follow me.”-You need to percolate, marinate and steep yourself in more spiritual truth—and then and only then, will a moment of understanding happen.-I cannot force you to be ready—even though Matthew IS ready.-You are not all on the same page here of spiritual understanding. [tweetthis]For me to be like Jesus, I will need to let go of those who are not ready to join me. [/tweetthis]This is a part of what it means to "follow me". I can not follow Jesus if I am manipulating those around me to believe like me; do like me and travel like me. I have to let go.When Jesus releases Matthew’s old friends by saying, “Go and learn” he is saying this: “Go figure this out…then perhaps you’ll be ready…”When we left someone go to figure out a spiritual truth; when we let someone go who is not where we are; when we release someone—we might even love and care for—there is a letting go in order that we, ourselves can follow more fully.I find myself really longing for my close friends to be on the same page with me. I wish they were reading every book I am reading now. I wish they could hear every teaching I could teach. I wish that my own life experiences could truly be shared . I mistakenly believe that if we all believe the same thing—and at the same time—then and perhaps only then are we truly friends.Matthew had to let go of old friends in order to be embraced by new soul mates. To be honest, I really do want everyone to be on the same bus as me. I have an illusion and live in an illusion that by being in the bus and on the bus then we’d all be fine.Follow Jesus means that some will un-follow you. But it does not mean this will be forever. It may be for a season; for a few years; for a time until there is a greater awakening, desire and yearning. Perhaps they are too comfortable right now. Perhaps they are to fixed in their boxes of belief. Perhaps they just want to remain the same because changing requires too, too much.As you let go, you will be taken hold of. As we release our grip—then another more Sacred Grip will hold us—and this was Matthew’s great joy to discover and it will be ours.