Friday, July 15, 2011

Letting Go

These past few days I am becoming more aware of what is going on in my internals. Certain emotions are starting to surface as the time draws closer to my departure in a few weeks. When you are busy cleaning up, you just are in 'doing' mode, as things need to get done and given my tendency to be a 'task oriented' person, this is exactly what I am doing. Emotions tend to take a back seat. But this week, there is a shift going on in my spirit. I feel it, the mourning and grieving has started. The 'letting go' has begun and the Lord is summoning me to enter into this most challenging phase of the journey. I hate saying goodbyes and while I'll be back some time next year for a brief visit, the reality is, friendships change, relationships change, we all do because God is changing us through the experiences He gives us. It is the mourning of losses of shared experiences and being pilgrims in the same place that I am now asked to work through, to embrace as part of the cross of following Christ. 

Tears are coming at unexpected times and so I'm being reminded of a comment I read recently by Frederick Buechner. 'People often ask how do you listen to you life?' How do you get into the habit of doing it?  How do you keep ears cocked and your eyes peeled for the presence of God or the presence of anything else?' Pay attention to any of those moments in your life when unexpected tears come in your eyes. You never know when that may happen, what may trigger them. Very often I think if you pay attention to those moments, you realize that something deep beneath the surface of who you are, something deep beneath the surface of the world, is trying to speak to you about who are you. You never know what may cause them. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure: whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.' They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and to summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.

So what do these tears signify? I am realizing it is the process of letting go of my life here. With each person I spend time with, with each meeting I have, it is a reminder to me, that a season is ending.  In a strange way, its as if I have a date with destiny and in the big scheme of things I do. I am stepping into the destiny that God has for me in Cambodia but to do that I am being called to step out of my life here. A life that has involved many circles of friends from different shared experiences. Last night I spent a wonderful evening meeting with many others from my church who are preparing to serve internationally and are on the same journey as I am. They are leaving in the next month or less. They too are wrestling with transition, with uncertainty but what keeps us all going is knowing that we are called by the One who is in control of all our situations. I was struck by the comments of one couple whose daughter had to write out the names of all the friends she was saying goodbye to and how sad she was feeling.  She was already began that journey of grief and she is just 8 years old. I found myself praying for this little girl and was surprised at the tears that followed. Perhaps it was a reminder of my own journey, that with each person or group I spend time with over these remaining weeks, I too am saying 'goodbye' and 'letting go' of the familiar to step into the unfamiliar. It is a dying to all that I know. It is the growing realization that our journeys are now taking different paths and it is coming to terms with the fact that we will most likely not be able to relate to each other to the same degree as we did while living here in the same place. A disconnect is happening and as a person who treasures her friendships, this is the most challenging part, to recognize that disconnect is starting and to entrust and release these friendships into God's hand. In many ways, it is a lonely journey that each of us is called to embark on. It is a necessary journey that we are called to embrace. No one can do it for us. We need to feel the pain, the loss and the grief.

Tim Keller in a sermon on 'Praying your Tears' noted the following:  becoming a person of faith may lead you to weep more. When the gospel changes your heart, your heart becomes more of a heart. (In Ezekiel, God says I will remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh) It is getting softer, more vulnerable, more touchable. You feel the evil and pain around you and you feel the pain of the people who are the victims of evil, you feel grief over the evil, you feel the things around you before, you just didn’t. As Christians grow in grace, they should expect to cry more. We should expect tears and when they do come, we should sow those tears, we should invest them. Psalm 126:5-6 says: 5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.  The poetic image here is that the farmer is going out sowing tears or perhaps watering their seed with tears. It is telling us do not avoid your tears, don’t just express your tears but you have to plant your tears, you have to sow your tears. Religious people tend to stuff their feelings and secular people tend to express them. But neither of those work, cause if you take your seed and sit on it you will never have a harvest, but if you take your big bag of seed into the middle of field and just dump it you will never have an harvest either. You can’t stuff your seed and you can’t dump your seed you have to plant it. We are being called to plant or sow our tears; to see your tears as an opportunity for fruitfulness and growth. Don’t waste your sorrows. That is not a masochistic idea where it says embrace your sorrows but it not a hedonistic spirit where it says avoid sorrows. It says when the sorrows come, invest them, plant them. We have to sow our tears and what is our reward…joy. The bible teachers that tears gives way to joy.  The kind of joy you really need is the product of tears. There is a kind of joy that comes from avoiding tears that does not really change you. There is a kind of joy that comes from the tears that really does change you. Such joy comes from when we plant tears.

And so as I reflect on all of this sadness, grief and tears, I am reminded a fresh to not avoid the tears but gracefully accept them, knowing that as I invest them, as I sow them, they will lead ultimately to a journey of fruitfulness and growth that will produce joy as the end product. Jesus was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. So too, He calls us to enter into this aspect of the cross as part of our pilgrimage.