March 13, 2017 | JOHN RAY
It was one of those experiences where you feel the floor slip from underneath you and the room spin. Your fingers and toes tingle, and you have to remind yourself to breathe.
I’d been meeting with Robert on a weekly basis for a while. We were about the same age, both married with kids and both had been adopted. Otherwise, we were very different people. He was dealing with intense personal issues and his life was falling apart. I would offer whatever I could in the way of presence, friendship and counsel, but I felt more than a bit helpless to stem the tide of crap swelling in his life.
One morning in the midst of all this, he asked me how I’d dealt with the issues that come with being adopted. I told him I really didn’t think I had any issues with it, which was a true statement. Then he cocked his head to one side, looked me straight in the eyes and retorted, “Everyone who is adopted has issues.”
That’s when the floor fell away.
I suddenly realized how much of what I did, the unrecognized motivation behind so many destructive behaviors and malformed imaginations, had to do with the unanswerable question so many, if not all, adoptees ask:
“Will you leave me too?”
I am still trying to figure it out to this day.
Regardless of our backgrounds and experiences, we all move through our days unaware of the forces forming our imaginations, dictating our emotional responses and framing our intellectual inquiries. They color, and at times control, our relational interactions and our assessments of value, place and time. Everything in our lives is affected by them.
This week our practice involves becoming present to those forces and letting go of the negative ones.
This is built on the foundation of gratitude, so if you have yet to engage with last week’s practice, go back and do that first.
It’s time to get serious, folks.
It’s time to ask what you’re holding onto that is keeping you from being fully present with God, from allowing yourself to be fully loved and accepted. Is it grief, hurt, bitterness, the need to control, frustration, anger, apathy, lack of desire, confusion?
Let. It. Go.
Here’s the process: This is not a “one and done” deal. It’s not magic. You will never really be “done.” No one else can do it for you, either. It’s a process usually engaged in as a group activity, on a retreat. The group setting provides a special motivation to follow through, and gives the benefit of a context in which participants can encourage each other and process and share thoughts. But this would also require the kind of vulnerability that doesn't come easily to everyone. In fact, for some of us, it might be a deal-breaker.
Next time we get together, let's talk about what it would look like for us to work through this process collectively. But for now, give it a try on your own -- if for no other reason than to familiarize yourself a bit with the emotional and spiritual terrain. If you feel like you can’t possibly do it alone, talk with me about making an appointment to go through it more fully at a later date.
But we all have to start somewhere.
This is the place, and now is the time.
Make space. Get out your Bible and your journal. Shut the doors. Read Ephesians 4:17-32 from The Message.
Take inventory. Pay attention. What are the things, attitudes, relationships, concepts, imaginations, worldviews and demands that chronically hold you down? If you are willing, ask someone you trust what they think the things are in your life that cripple you.
Own it. Call it what it is. Get angry at it, grieve, howl, cry, throw your hands up. Make no excuses for yourself, God or others. Quit running. Quit hiding. Quit quitting.
Pray it. Use the following prayer to guide your repentance and letting go. Take your time. Breathe. Repeat as necessary.
Abba Father, I have acted with ignorance, violence, selfishness and sloth (name the specifics here). Forgive me.
Abba, others have hurt, neglected, used, attacked and lied to and about me. I have judged them for this and held onto the hurt. I have sought vengeance and nurtured bitterness. Forgive me.
All my excuses are smoke and suds; they evaporate in Your presence. Forgive me.
I have sinned by what I have chosen to do and what I have chosen to ignore, to rationalize away, to blame on others. Forgive me.
I don’t deserve Your forgiveness, much less Your love. Your mercy and welcome is all grace, a sign and experience of Your great love for me. Grant me Your peace.
Thank You that You accept me and embrace me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that it might no longer be me who lives, but Christ in me. Fill me, Abba, with Your Holy Spirit.
All for Your glory, my salvation and as a light to the world, I let it go. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Let it settle. If you have honestly engaged in this process, you might be worn out. Give yourself time to heal, process and be restored. Finally, let go of the expectation for immediate change. It might happen, might not. More likely it will take time to settle, ferment. Don’t force it; simply pay attention.
Grace and peace, y’all.
Note: I am out of town the next couple of Sundays teaching and building in Mexico. Those are also the weekends bracketing spring break, so meetings might be sporadic. Please make every effort to engage in this process before we all meet together again.
and keep up with your other Lenten practices. Grace and peace, y’all