Letting Go

misty-hills

“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

– William Butler Yeats –

I am a firm believer in wonderful things.

In fact, I am very good at setting my sights on things I want and wishing for them with all my heart.

If you’ve read my blog long, you know that I’ve talked about surrender quite a bit–empty hands, a whole heart offered to God, trust in the future that He determines.

But all that to say–I apparently still didn’t get the idea.

There are stages to journeys.

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

― Elisabeth Elliot ―

First, God led me, years ago, to say my first, halting “Thy will be done” to His plans for my future.

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Since then, over and again, I’ve laid my desires out to Him and given them over into His keeping.

Every once in a while, though, a big and lovely dream creeps into my heart.

It’s hard to know what to do with such a magnificent thing. I’ll tell you what I like to do–I like to frame that dream and hang it in the corridors of my imagination. I like to set it high on the shelf of myself and  lean back and smile over that dream a little while, pull it down and stroke it a bit, then set it back up to stare at again. For such a fair and perfect dream, I can spare no expense. Every highest thought, every best energy of my heart goes to it.

I have had such big, beautiful dreams, and sometimes I have handled them well. I have let go just enough to say, “Yet, if You take this dream too, Lord, I will love You and serve You even then.” I have been able to laugh in the dark and give even my desperate tears over to my Master. But still, that dream was something I often clutched. Willing to give it up…yes, for my Jesus. If circumstances made me. If others forced me. If God Himself set blockades in the way. But give it up on my own…why would I do such a thing?

blue-nature-wallpaper-14297133009ozOnce upon a time, I had such a dream–oh, it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I guarded it and kept it with all my might. Sure, I told God He could have it. I even meant it. Honestly, I wrestled and I came to the sincere conclusion that if this hoped-for thing did not come to be, it would be okay. I didn’t know how it would be okay, but I really did believe it.

But I will tell you something about dreams.

Sometimes, just being willing isn’t enough.

Sometimes a dream grows so large and heavy, so lovely and blinding, that it is a weight to carry along.

I had that big, lovely dream, and I toted it along in my heart. And, even though I said the Lord could have it, I also said, “But please, I like it so much, can’t I keep it?”


A father and his little girl were taking a journey together.

“Father!” she squealed, finding a lovely object on the ground. “Look at this! Have you ever seen something so beautiful?”

He looked down on his hopeful-eyed little girl as she hoisted a too-big load up in her thin arms, and he said, “It is very heavy.”

“But please, I love it. Can’t I bring it home with me?” this little girl pleaded.

And the father smiled to himself, because he knew the treasure was too heavy for the small one. But he nodded and let his little girl heft the weight along.

Soon she began panting.

“Why don’t you put that load down?” he asked.

The little girl’s eyes flew open wide and tears pooled in them. “If you say I must, I will,” she said, quietly. “I know you want what is best for me.” Then she looked up at him tearfully. “But please, can’t I bring it a little farther?”

As they traveled along, she began to moan quietly under the crushing weight of her burden. Each time the trail steepened, she cried a little on top of her treasure and gritted her teeth to carry it up the hill. It seemed like her load was getting heavier and heavier with every small, wobbling step she took. Soon, her arms trembled and her knees buckled. She dropped the load, barely pulling her small hands out from beneath it before it crashed to the path.

“You should leave it now,” her father spoke again, so kindly. “It is only a weight to you.”

“But…” she looked down at it, then saw the red blisters on her hands and the bruises turning blue on her forearms. She bit her lip and grabbed her father’s hand. “Yes, Father.” She got up, tears falling. She started to follow him down the path, but turned back for one last glance. “I will leave it here. I won’t try to carry it myself any more.” She took a few more steps. “Father?”

“Yes, dear one?”

“What if that treasure…is supposed to be mine?”

He smiled down at her and scooped her up into his arms. “Then I will carry it home to you when it is time.”


This has been my experience: Even though I battled with my dream, trying to keep it from becoming an idol, truly wanting to keep Jesus first, the battle wore me out. 

Finally, after heart-breaking after heart-breaking, I had to just let it go. I had to leave it at the Lord’s feet and say, “Here is my favorite dream. I’m not bringing it with me anymore. I’m not counting on it to come true anymore. I’m not letting myself imagine it is true, or picture all the ways I will enjoy it, or setting it at the center of my future. I am leaving it behind and letting You do with it what You want.”

I couldn’t keep tugging it along. It was dragging me down, wearing me out.

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning –

blue-flower-1354931252PeKPeople say that hope is a good thing. “Never give up hope,” they say.

But I think that sometimes you have to give up on a small hope to make room for a Greater Hope.

As the persecuted Chinese Christian Li Quan says in Randy Alcorn’s novel Safely Home, “That day, hope was dashed–and, no matter how painful, it is always good when false hopes are dashed. Since then, many have learned to trust not in man but in God” (page 94).

Every dream I’ve given up, every disappointed hope,  has only driven me deeper into my need for Jesus.

Sure, each time I open my heart to His ways instead of mine, a part of me dies. But isn’t dying to my way of doing things part of becoming who I am really designed to be?

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“If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!”

– Elisabeth Elliot –

Dreams aren’t bad–I don’t regret my dreams, my disappointments, or the pain that has been my teacher. I only regret the time spent on lifting dreams higher than I lifted my love for Jesus.

However lovely, no dream is as beautiful as He is.

The question is, do we live like we believe that?


“I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!”

– Romans 8:38, Phillips paraphrase –

 

 

 

 

My Grip

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“Many plans are in a person’s mind,
    but the Lord’s purpose will succeed.”

 – Proverbs 19:21, CEB –


Not long ago, I realized that I take a lot of pride in my grip.

And I don’t mean how strong my hands are.

I like to have it all together. Yeah…classic firstborn. Self-made standards, organization, to-do lists, and all. And then, a couple months ago, a crisis bared my inadequacy.

My mom, a friend, and I were talking with some neighbors near our home when a pack of dogs rushed past us and attacked my dog Tex, who is a border collie/German shepherd mix. The dogs’ owner ran into the fray, yelling as if his lungs would burst any second. My mom rushed across the grass to the fight. Bystanders tried to shoo the attacking dogs away.

Me?

All I could do was cry.

I had never felt more helpless in all my 22 years. My friend later commented that all the hope seemed to go out of me.

See, I knew those dogs. I was scared of them, and I knew my dog was a wimp. He was not going to put up much of a fight, especially against such massive, snarling opponents. He would have turned tail and whimpered away…but he couldn’t.

In that awful moment when the dogs attacked, I remember grabbing the nearby fence, doubling over, praying, and just crying. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I just knew my dog was dead. I gave up, right then. It was over.

That’s when I learned how much I trust my grip.

When my control was stripped away, I stopped functioning.

Now, that was a tiny moment in life. And, thank God, I was proven wrong. The dogs’ owner was able to save my dog’s life. He walked away without even a scratch.

But that tiny moment showed me a big flaw in myself. Because I like to be in control. I really, really like it.

Sometimes, I still feel my grip tightening. It is not as instant and dramatic as the dog fight incident, but I get paralyzed by fear all the same. Somehow, I think that if I could just get a handle on everything, it would be okay.

“Never fear, Shelbie is here!” Right?

Today, a friend wrote me and told me about some of the hard things going on in her life.

My grip tightened–I wanted so badly to give her all the answers. I wanted so much to be the savior, the one who could make the hurt go away. I wanted to play God a little while and wipe the tears and make things come out happy in the end.

And I couldn’t.

I offered a few words of truth, but I felt the powerlessness of my replies.

It was out of my control. And there was nothing I could do about it.

And you know what? I am not the savior of this world. So why do I so often try to be just that?

Why do I lay upon myself the responsibility to make sure my life, and the lives of those I love, go smoothly? How full of pride am I, to think that I can handle this job of Manager of the Universe? Where did I get the idea that the position was even up for grabs?

My grip of late has been loosening.

Throughout my Christian walk, I’ve been learning to let go of things. My future, my health, my dreams–I’ve placed them in my Lord’s loving hands again and again.

But somehow I keep sneaking off with a piece of my life and try to smooth it all out on my own.

It is silly. It is a deadly toxin of pride and fear. It can steal all the joy out of living, and strip everything of color.

Because I really don’t have a very good grip at all.

Often, lying in bed, I think about things: future things, past things, things I wish I could do. The person I wish I were. So many plans.

And I’m learning to let them go. It is scary, and painful, and so very freeing.

It boils down to what I trust: my sweaty, white-knuckled grip, or the unwavering, all-powerful, love-scarred hand of my Lord?

So I offer up my life again.

My dreams. My friends. My trust in my own sufficiency. My independence. My quest to always have the answer. All of these, I offer up.

This is what it must mean to be a living sacrifice. Old things are dying, sloughing off, and new life is starting to shine through.

He must increase, and I must decrease.

Trust me, everyone is much better off. His grip is way better than mine.


“Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.”

 – Lina Sandell –