Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hold on loosely

Over the last few years, I have been reminded repeatedly in different contexts to "hold on loosely." Those words, and that idea, have had a profound impact on the way I think about parenting and possession. They relate very clearly in my heart to FFE.

Indulge me for a tangent onto a parenting topic. Our youngest arrived in our family through the blessing of adoption. What I have always known about our treasured girl is that she was first, last, and always a child of God, given over to our tender-loving care. She is almost always a flurry of intensity and activity. This means that in places where having your child stay close is a safety thing (parking lots, stores, and the like) she could try my last nerve. Several years ago, I figured out what was really going on. The tighter I held her hand, the more she fought and pulled away. But, when I finally tried a different tact -- suggesting that we "hold on loosely" to each other's hands -- we stopped tugging against each other. It was a give-to-get thing. I gave her freedom from overt physical control in the form of a clamped on hand, and she gave me what I really wanted which was the knowledge that she was safely in my presence.

Isn't that very much like the kind of relationship God desires with us? I confess very childish desires in my relationship with God. Often I want to bolt away from Him seeking pleasure or distraction, or I squeeze His hand tightly so that I can yank Him along with me wherever I decide I want to go. I believe my Father desires something different from our relationship. I think He wants to hold my hand in loose, loving communion, giving me the comfort of His safe presence and the choice to be in His will, following Him where He wants to lead me.

In a similar way, I can choose a different relationship with my stuff. If I hold on loosely to it, it is in my keeping, but I am not being controlled by it or running after it. I no more want to be controlled by my stuff than I want my arm yanked around by a willful little girl (who I love beyond all measure). I picture some kind of crazy tug-o-war going on: one of my hands in God's, the other grasping the things of this world. If I'm holding tightly to worldly things, those things will yank me right out of God's grasp. But change the picture to one of follow-the-leader, and I see a better ordering of things. God lovingly leads me to the situations He plans for me, and I steward my possessions in keeping with His plan. Freed of the need to cling tightly to worldly things, I can let them go for a better purpose than they could ever serve for me alone.

Take clothes as a case in point. 11 sweaters on my shelf? Someone, somewhere is cold. 14 pairs of shoes I haven't worn in who knows how long? Someone has holes in theirs and needs my shoes for their job interview next week. Let go, Beca. Give freely, Beca. There is a better way.

Jesus, lead me to opportunities that test my willingness to sacrifice the things of this world. Teach me to shepherd my resources for your purposes. Show me a need. Loosen my grasp. Make me ready.

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