A couple of times this winter Rachel and I have gone over to Tenney Park to make use of their wonderful ice rink and warming house. What a beautiful city in which we live! The last time we were there, Rachel and two of her friends were hitting a hockey puck around when a young boy came up to talk to them. In no time at all four of them were playing a pick up game of practice hockey. Each girl would take a turn shooting at the net with the young man serving as goalie. After Rachel’s friends had left the young boy continued to hang with Rachel, talking and giggling.
Knowing that young girls do not want their fathers hanging too closely by when speaking with boys, I gave her a bit of distance. Still, being a father of boys I kept a close eye on them. Sometime later, after the young man had left I skated over to Rachel and asked her about the young man. He’s a good looking kid, I said. Yes he is, replied Rachel. He is from Chicago Dad and his name is Michael. He’s in town for a hockey tournament and he was showing me how to play hockey. He said I should come to his game. He has nice hair and beautiful eyes. He’s not my type though. I was shocked! I shot back, You have a type? Here was an epiphany moment – a moment when I realized my little Rachel was growing up. Soon there will be other boys, and more stories, and lots of types! My heart ached for a moment knowing there will come a day when I will have to let her go. I suppose that is what parenting is all about – teaching, trusting, and then letting go.
So much of life is about letting go. In Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book he says – In the end there are only three things that matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you learned to let go.
I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he proclaimed that wonderful line from the Gospel of John, Unless a grain of wheat falls upon the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. Jesus knew that as human beings we cling to so much. We cling to our angers our hurts and our old wounds. We cling to our failed relationships, and dead end jobs. We cling to people and we cling to things and only when we learn to let go, only when we learn to die to ourselves, only then do we ever discover true freedom and real life!
And so I am making a resolution. I realize that it’s a strange time to make a New Years resolution with one month of 2017 already behind me, but until that moment on the rink just a week ago I didn’t have a clear resolution to make. Now I do. I want to let go. This year I want to look at some of the stuff in my life, possessions and things, and let go. I want to travel a bit lighter and free myself from so much clutter that fills my living spaces. I want to buy less and enjoy what I have more. I want to let go.
I want to take stock of some of the unresolved angers and wounds that I carry within my heart and forgive myself for carrying them – and more – forgive those who have been the source of those angers and wounds. Life is too short for grudges. I also want to move away from my first instinct of judging others and the constant need to share my opinions. In doing this I’ll be more attentive to listening and trying to understand first. I need to give up a sense of self-importance and ego. I want to let go.
Most of all, I want to remember this year that my children do not belong to me and Melissa is a gift from God. I choose to remember that this parish too is not mine, nor this ministry, nor this moment – everything belongs to God alone. I am going to try to be a bit less controlling as a parent, husband, friend and pastor. I want to let go.
Perhaps if I work on letting go now, someday (hopefully a long time from now), I’ll be able to let go of Rachel with grace on her wedding day, and trust that whatever type she has chosen, she will be loved and cared for. I have to stop clinging. We have to stop clinging. Only when we learn to let go, only when we learn to die to ourselves, only then do we ever discover true freedom and real life!