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The Art of Letting Go

December 20, 2019


I’m writing this on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This morning, I joined more than five hundred people on Instagram to pray the rosary with a group called Many Hail Marys at a Time. It was my second time joining them for prayer, and I sat down at my desk asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We started to pray and dive into the Joyful Mysteries.

As we walked through the mysteries, I began to realize that each one was a moment of letting go, that the Blessed Mother fully possesses the Incarnation solely through the constant art of surrendering him.

The Annunciation was a moment of “Yes, I have conceived,” and this conception of the Messiah was the beginning of that surrender. The Visitation was another letting go . . . that this Messiah would be shared with Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and he was no longer the baby in her womb but now even more tangibly belonging to someone other than herself—a letting go. The Nativity was yet another moment of surrender—of the idea of what his entrance into the world may look like and an acceptance that the only matter at hand was his entrance, no matter the circumstances or surroundings. The Dedication is another act of letting go of this child and surrendering him back to God. And then the Finding of Jesus at the Temple, for now, as this letting go continues to culminate, he continues to become the One who is not just hers, not just the Child of the Virgin, not just hers to love, but One who is shared with the whole world.

Each of these mysteries reminded me that the point of greatest possession is the point of greatest abandonment.

We’ve been taught that in order to have something, we must possess it. We own cars and homes and phones and things, but we wrongly apply this same principle to virtue. We think possession equates having—to have love, to have happiness, to have joy—“we must hold on to it . . . we must control it . . . we must wrap our hands around it and never let it go.” This type of possession results in restrictions.

It is like holding onto sand from the shores of the beach. If you hold tightly, if you make a fist, the grains will slip through your fingers. You’ll still have some of the sand, but you’ll never have it all again. To hold the sand, you’ll need an open hand. You’ll have to cradle each grain with a completely open palm. You won’t lose anything at all but possess each grain as when you first picked them up.

The open palm is a good illustration of what receptivity means. A life that is receptive to the love of God becomes receptive to his will, becomes receptive to the other, and becomes a life that is authentically free because of this openness.

The man who is truly free is the man who possesses completely.

Think of it this way. To truly love my husband, I must love him freely. I cannot love him by molding him into what I want him to be. I cannot love him by grasping tightly at his heart. I can only love him by always letting him become who he is created to be by God, not by Rachel. This same approach is taken with my children, with ministry, and with my spiritual life.

How often do we attempt to make God into the God we think he should be? We bound him with our man-made chains and tell him how to fulfill our wants and needs. We make our list of what he will be doing, how he will love us, when he can show up, and we sit back, look at him in the chains of our insecurity, and beg him to move.

Love doesn’t work like that. Freedom doesn’t look like that. And he who is love is beyond whatever we could imagine him to be.

Christ incarnate gives us the greatest example of this freedom by the cross. I often say that if you want to know what surrender looks like, if you want to know what letting go looks like, if you want to know what freedom looks like, look at the cross. Look at the Savior of the world bleeding and open to the world, arms outstretched, offering nothing but his death for the life of the world. This is what freedom looks like.

And you can look at the foot of the cross and see Our Lady there, letting go, mirroring the freedom of the cross, of her son.

It is in the letting go, the surrendering of things, of people, of tasks, of wishes, that we can actually have them. Until you let those go, you will never have them but they will have you.

When that surrender is given and freedom is found, you will find you the virtue of authenticity. A free person is unbound by the world and knows only one thing: that they are beloved by God. Freedom and authenticity are only found by an openness to him and a receptive heart like Our Lady.

Nothing is ever truly ours until we let it be truly his.