Let Go, Let God

Have you thought about what to “give up” for Lent this year?

Several years ago, when our kids were still living at home, I attempted to give up “worry” for Lent. The following year I decided to give up “control”. Neither of these were serving me or anyone well and quite frankly, were robbing me (and everyone else) of inner peace.

Easier said than done. I am a worry wart and a control freak. I am the parent of two daughters, after all! And full disclosure—we still have two daughters who have left home and I still struggle with worry and control—from a distance! Which is why this Lenten season, I will attempt to give up my twin nemeses yet again. It has become something of an annual ritual!

You see, the underlying irony is that control is an illusion anyway. You really don’t have control over anything or anyone. It has taken me seven decades to realize that rather than obsessing over things, people and circumstances that I cannot change, it is far better to let them go and let God direct, as he so chooses. Neither are a good use of my time and so letting go of the fight is a big relief.

As a spouse, a parent and a pastor I have agonized over the false assumption that if everyone would just think, do and act like me, then their life would work out better and there would be peace in the valley. Should have listened to our youngest daughter, who when 6, declared defiantly with hands on hips: “You’re not my boss. God is!” Crass, but pretty good psychology, actually.

Raising two daughters is a petri dish for all of this. As a concerned parent who laid awake at night obsessing over—where they were, who they were with, why they were making poor choices—I lost more sleep and more hair worrying about things I could not change. Yes, I still had influence, and now that they are older they acknowledge and thank me for that. But in the heat of those parenting volcanoes, the more I tried to control them the more I seemed to drive them away.

When our eldest daughter was in her early twenties, I came up with a wonderful plan for her life and I thought I would lovingly share it with her, thinking she would swoon over my prophetic wisdom and parental concern. Sitting at Tim Horton’s, I plotted out the next 10 years of her life on a napkin. It was a magnificent projection complete with diagrams, timelines, and goals. I thought it went well.

Later that day, however, my wife informed me that through my daughter’s lens, this was control on steroids and was close to being a deal breaker. To be fair, my intentions were good and loving, but I needed to let go, for real.

It was time.

So I went to Pandora and bought a charm—silver wings. I wrote a letter and had another sit down at Tim Hortons the next day, this time not to control her future but to release her.

Dear Daughter”, I wrote:

“One of our mentors used to say that our job as parents is to – ‘Give our kids roots and then give them wings’. The ‘roots’ thing I found easy and raising you was a joy beyond compare. The ‘wings’ thing?—well, that’s another story. I am having a lot more trouble with that one.

That said (handing her the charm) I think it’s time for me to let you fly. You are 21. And even though you are still 5 in my eyes, you are, in fact, a woman. And I need to let you go. Some of our little talk yesterday was my attempt to give you more roots, my roots. Point is, you have your own now. And they are good roots—deep, grounded, adventurous, risky, mature, godly, prudent and wise.

My root planting days are pretty much over and I think the wing chapter must begin, for both of us. Fact is, you can fly a whole lot better than I give you credit for. I guess as a father, I still like to think you need my help. But I can’t control you anymore (as if I ever could). All I can do is love you unconditionally and I need to learn how to do that.

What you need from me now is support, presence, acceptance and advice and wisdom if / when you ask for it. And please know, I will always be there for all of the above as long as I have breath and you need me.

But for now, for what it’s worth, know that I love you more than life itself.

Just bear with me as I will no doubt get confused about where the roots and the wings converge because in some sense, I too, will be learning to fly as well.

Maybe we can learn to fly together.

You cannot control other people. Have you noticed? You can influence and offer wisdom and personal direction, but you have no control over what they will do or won’t do with it. You can control your own reactions, but never anyone else’s. When I live like this, I find freedom and peace, as a parent, as a spouse, as a pastor (that’s another story!).

Back to where I started—giving up “control” for Lent. I don’t think I’m pushing it to suggest that Jesus, being human himself struggled with control as well. The Son had several revealing exchanges with his Father along these lines.

Jesus, in John 12:27-28:

“Right now, I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display”.

Matthew 26:39:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 23:46:

“Into your hands I commit my spirit”.

To paraphrase?

God, I don’t like where this is going. I know you can get me out of this if anyone can. But I confess you are in control and that is good enough. I will let go. I will let God. I will trust You” … (aka F.A.I.T.HForsaking All I Trust Him).

So again, this year, I will give up worry for Lent.

I will give up my control. I will let go. I will let God. I will choose to take hold of what I can control and let go of what I cannot, and in so doing, enjoy deeper levels of peace and serenity.

And next year, I’ll probably do the same. I’m still a dad of two girls after all.

Until then, Lord:

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference.

(Serenity Prayer)

Written by Pastor Jerry Orthner, the Senior Adults Pastor. What a great reminder for us to let go of our need for control and let God lead!