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Letting Go

Several weeks back I wrote a post titled, “I’ve got this.” I almost called it “Letting go,” but I felt like I needed to save that title. I got this sense that that post was more of a prequel. The part where God says, “I’ve got this.” And while there was some letting go on my part then, I had a feeling a post would follow, at some point, that would really be the point of letting go. Well, here it is.

I hit a breaking point tonight. All this stuff that’s been been popping up here and there, elusively, finally came rushing to the surface. I hadn’t realized how much all these different things had just been adding up, building up pressure, until the dam broke.

This past week was Thanksgiving break, and a lot of these things came to a head over break.

I went into break with a lot of somewhat lofty expectations of what I wanted to get done with all my free time. I had some homework to work on that’s due later this week. I could always get it done closer to the due date, but with a whole week off, I could spare some time to knock it out so I wouldn’t have to later. I wanted to get my desk under control, and my inbox. I wanted to work on scholarship applications. Most of all, I wanted to spend a lot of time seeking God—reading, praying, whatever. I especially wanted to focus that time on praying about some major life decisions and stuff. I knew, from experience, that it was crazy to expect to get everything done that I was hoping to. But I thought it was realistic to think I’d get some of it done.

Zip. Zilch. Zero.

I might have set a personal record for how little I did this break. I mean, I did a few things with people. But outside of that, when I was just chilling in my room…I played games on my iPad. I read up on technology blogs. I watched Quantum of Solace so I could see it again before watching Skyfall (I watched Casino Royale a couple weeks back.) The most productive thing I did was to go through my 170 photos from my weekend in DC and throw out more than two thirds of them, and do some editing on the ones that passed.

But the break just went by so fast. I spent the first weekend in DC with some friends. I got back late Sunday night. So I slept half of Monday away, and then bummed around for what was left. On Tuesday I went to a “Pie Day” at the international center—basically, a potluck lunch, all pies (both sweet and things like pot pie and quiche)—and again, did nothing for the rest of the day. (One of those two nights was the night I watched Quantum of Solace.) At this point, I thought I still had the rest of the week to get those things done. On Wednesday I started physical therapy on my knee. Thursday, being Thanksgiving, I wasn’t about to get into homework or cleaning or anything. I had Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of the international students our Engage Group has connected with. On Friday I went to physical therapy again, and that evening I watched Skyfall with a friend. On Saturday I watched us beat UVA for the ninth straight time. And then Sunday was back to normal. Sleeping in, and then going to 130 Jackson at 5 for sound check before the 707. OK, so maybe I didn’t set any records after all. At least not the one I thought I did. On second thought, I think I did more this break than any week-long break since coming here. But it was all hanging out with people (and physical therapy.) I didn’t do any of the things I had in mind that I was gonna do. So when the end of the break came, and I realized I wasn’t able to check a single thing off that list, I got really frustrated with myself. And discouraged. And tonight, with classes back underway, that homework still hanging over me, my room still a disaster zone, my iPad telling me that I have 272 unread messages, of 1031 total (They’ve been piling up a while. The unread ones are messages that I judged by the subject line that I didn’t really need to read—and never came back to)…I just felt really overwhelmed. And in that moment, all kinds of things that have been weighing on me came to the surface.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to drop what I was doing, and let God speak to me. He was using this stress to bring all this stuff forward that I’d been bent over double over, without even realizing it. I knew it wouldn’t do any good to try to keep pushing forward with homework. I needed to step away, and try to process all this stuff. I felt like the best first step was to start by just writing out everything. All of those things that were overwhelming me, frustrating me, filling me with guilt or shame, everything that God was bringing out in me right now. I didn’t really know where to go from there. I started praying, and God brought the chorus of a Third Day song to mind:

Take it all, cause I can’t take it any longer
All I have, I can’t make it on my own
Take the first, take the last
Take the good and take the bad
Here I am, all I have, take it all

I cued the song, to listen to the whole thing. As it played, I thought of the series that we just finished at [nlcf], about freedom. One of the things that was discussed a lot was things that stand in the way of freedom, that we need to let go of. Things that often are even seen in secular culture as exercising freedom, but that really are obstacles to true, biblical freedom. I also remembered something I noticed for the first time the other night. Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

I’ve always read the part about stripping off weight with the emphasis on sin. What struck me the other night is that is says “every weight that slows us down, especially the sin…” Yes, it highlights sin. But it is clearly implying that not every weight that slows us down is sin.

In my case, while some of the stuff that God brought to mind tonight is sin, much of it is not. But it’s still weighing me down.

Then he brought a line from another song to mind. This one is Magnificent Obsession, by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Cut through these chains that tie me down to so many lesser things
Let all my dreams fall to the ground, until this one remains

Of course, I had to listen to this one in its entirety too. As the song finished, I wrote,

God, I want to be free. I want to die to myself…I want to run the race for you. Strip me of everything weighing me down and tripping me up. I’m through trying to make this work on my own. Here I am. All I have. Take it all.

I’ve found over the years both of these songs are songs I come back to time and time again. As long as we walk on this fallen earth, we will need to keep coming back to this. Keep putting our old selves to death, surrendering to Jesus, letting him take our burdens. Tonight I needed that again.