I’m grateful for my partner in faith and life, Amy, being willing to write this installment for the Street Theology blog. Allow this reflection to give you a wonderful “grasp” of what the Season of Lent offers us. -Pastor Jim
“Nooooo Anna, that’s mine!” Peter yells as he grabs the toy out of Anna’s hand. This is almost a daily argument I hear between my two oldest children. They each hang on tightly to their toys, their things, their “spot” on the couch-it is something all kids wrestle with, and it’s of course developmentally appropriate. The idea of something being “their own” is a big deal, especially since kids don’t have a lot of control over many things. But as I listen to Peter and Anna argue I can’t help thinking of myself. How often do I want to yell “Noooo that is mine!”? Probably more often than I am willing to admit. How do I teach my children to hold loosely to things of this world, when I struggle with this myself?
Go ahead, think of your life right now. What are you holding onto tightly? Perhaps it is your job or your home, both of which you have worked hard for and earned. Maybe it is your retirement account or your emergency fund. Maybe it is a family heirloom. Maybe it is a beautiful throw or expensive sweater. Maybe it is your secret stash of chocolate you hide from your kids (not that I have any experience with this…). But maybe it is your plans, plans for your future, an upcoming vacation, your next career move, or the number of babies you want to have.
Whatever “it” is, what if you were asked to give it up and change your plan completely?
What if you were more open to the radical kingdom living life God has planned for you?
These are just some of the questions Shannan Martin asks in her book “Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted”. I have been wrestling quite a bit with this idea of holding loosely as described in Shannan’s book. What exactly does it mean to hold loosely? What will I have to give up? How different will my life be?
Each one of us can look back on our lives and point to times when things didn’t turn out the way we planned, when we held tight to our own ways. In the last decade I can name quite a few times when my own plan went out the window. Most recently, it was the plan Jim and I had of moving closer to family, a plan we held tight. However, in less than a year we found our plans turned upside down in the most unexpected and painful way. Before we knew it, we were moving out of a house almost exactly one year from the day we moved in. I would like to say that this experience taught me to hold on to my plans loosely but, if I am honest, the opposite is true. I find myself holding on with a tighter grip.
Shannan continues to challenge me in her book by reminding me how Jesus lived “in reverse” of this world and how he calls us to do the same. She writes: “It’s never the way we thought it would be. It’s not what we would have scripted if the pen were in our hands. That’s what kingdom living is. It’s about holding loosely. It’s about believing-really believing-that I’ll be held accountable for all of it one day.”
Perhaps the season of Lent is the perfect time for all of us to look at what we have a tight grip on. For it is in doing so that causes us to see how we are truly living. We can then ask ourselves the bold question: “is this the kingdom building life Jesus wants for me?”
What would happen if we opened our hands a little more, let loose of our plans and instead focused on relationships, on people, on stepping outside of our comfort zone or our zip code and letting the love of Jesus be our guide?
Sometimes we make it more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe its spending less time adding items to my Amazon cart and more time picking up the phone to call a friend who has been on my mind, bring a meal (or a pizza) to a neighbor, or giving our kids or our spouse 10 minutes of our undivided attention where we truly listen to what is on their heart. Maybe holding loosely means living in a way that is less about me and more about others.
Friends, when we surrender our own desires, we embark on a kingdom living adventure that is far better than we ever could have asked for or imagined!
Dear Lord, cling to us as we let loose of the tight grip we have on earthly things and desires. Open our hearts and our eyes to Your ways. Remind us that your plan is always better than our own. Be with us as we strive to live a kingdom filled life with You at the center. Amen.