A popular slogan in American Christian culture is "Let go and let God", meaning we should turn loose of the things that bind us here and allow God to be our God. "Letting go" has become a psycho-babble cliché, but despite the afternoon talk shows, there is truth in the idea that we need to let go of ourselves in order to be free to embrace Jesus.
I recently learned a lesson in letting go as I turned over command of my squadron to my successor. Command in the military is an experience that most officers aspire to and train their entire careers for. A military commander has vast responsibilities for the welfare, training, and effectiveness of the men and women under his or her command. It is a special relationship between the commander and the unit… something that melds the roles of father, mentor, judge, administrator, coach, and cheerleader into one job. It is a heady responsibility, a terrible burden, and a joyful mission all in one.
But last week, my third and probably final squadron command came to an end with a tangible act of letting go. During the change of command ceremony, the outgoing commander passes the unit guidon from his hands to the new commander. In four short words, "Sir, I relinquish command". the burden shifts from the shoulders to the heart. We leave behind those who have become our surrogate family in the hands of a new man. It is a difficult moment. I was required to physically let go of the flag, and there was a moment when I wondered if I'd have the strength to do it. As I willed my hands to open and allow the flag to pass from them, a chapter of my life closed forever.
For a few moments, I grieved the passing of my command, then took a deep breath and began to look forward to my new position at my next base. As difficult as the physical act of letting go of the flag was for me, the tangible act of releasing it enabled me to turn my attention to what comes afterwards.
In our relationship with Jesus, we have the same opportunity — it's called "conversion" and it's something we should do daily. St Paul spoke eloquently about the need for conversion in his Letter to the Romans concerning baptism. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11). Dying to self means letting go of the things that hold us captive here in the world, and embracing the freedom of Christ. When we let go of ourselves we don't loose ourselves, any more that I lost myself yesterday, but we gain Christ and become a more authentic person under His Lordship.
The grace offered to us by Jesus enables us to become the men God intended us to be — to "be all we can be" so to speak. Discarding the things of the world opens us to more grace and greater holiness. We can move on further in our journey towards Heaven, unencumbered by the weight of the things the world wants to burden us with. That shedding of worldly things is hard and occasionally painful, but we must let go if we intend to move on.
Our "final command" is in Heaven and we won't bring anything with us that is not contained within our hearts. We should be sure that our hearts are unburdened by the things of this world.
Ultimately, it's all about letting go.