“You let go….I had it first!”
“No you didn’t….it’s mine!”
Ever raised, cared for or even been around three year olds? If so, the above exchange is pretty familiar. Around two to three years old, wee little people begin to develop concrete thinking skills and suddenly the concept of “mine” becomes the rule of the toddler land. If you are currently holding a bright red rubber ball in your hand, if you were holding the ball in your hand earlier or if you were even thinking of picking up the ball and holding it in your hand at any time since you first laid eyes on it, then it rightly belongs to you….right? Conversely, if you had never held the ball, never thought of holding the ball and don’t really even know what the round, red thing is, by virtue of the fact you have now seen it and desire it, then it must rightly belong to you as well….right? “Mine!” One way or another, one of those kids is going to end up with the ball, possibly following a small tussle with or without whining and tears.
As we grow and our concept of “others” develops, things really get interesting. We still want things just as badly, but now there are pesky social rules such as fairness, politeness and even consequences if we forget (or choose to ignore) the new rules. It’s tough growing up! So many “no”s, “not now”s and “not here”s can get it in a kid’s head that there’s nothing that truly belongs to them, though that can’t be true, because he or she remembers so fondly that time….just a few years ago and they had a red rubber ball….
So much of our lives is spent finding the rubber balls, using the rubber balls, collecting more rubber balls, building places to store the rubber balls, then fretting what to do with all the rubber balls we’ve collected, because now we have far too many, but we worked hard for those round bouncers….and deep down there’s a toddler, still wanting to say, “Mine!” at the thought of letting it all go.
There’s nothing wrong with having “stuff” if we’re not so attached to it we break into a sweat at the thought of letting it go. But things happen, don’t they? Things we can’t foresee and certainly can’t control. Suddenly our stuff is damaged, or being divided into equal parts to be carried away, and we realize what we wanted all along wasn’t the stuff at all, but the people attached to the stuff. But if we can’t predictably control the stuff in our lives, we certainly can’t control the people either, nor their comings and goings. The pain of loss is no less dramatic for us oh-so-mature adults than the two-year old whose ball has been so unjustly taken from him. We want to stiffen our backs, ball our fists and yell, “Give it back! It’s mine!” Or him….or her….or them….
Letting go isn’t in my nature. Well, the “stuff” part I’m actually OK with, but the people, the relationships, the physical hugs and smiles and laughs and time spent together is a hard, hard pill to swallow just now. I don’t really know how to let go, but I know it’s something I have no control over, and all the balls in the world won’t fill my hands on this one.
Never more than the season of Lent do I wish I could sit and share a solid conversation with Jesus and ask him what he was truly thinking and feeling those last few weeks before he was crucified. How did he do it? How did he continue to wake up and walk into each new morning, knowing his days were growing fewer and fewer? How did he let go of the friends – his family that I know he deeply loved, knowing they were going to miss him so terribly? It wasn’t about the “stuff” with Jesus….it never was….it was always about people – about us.
So as I struggle with learning to let go, I’m thankful I have Jesus to look to. He knows what it is to lose all, and he knows what it is to love with abandon. I may not know quite how to get there yet, but he knows the way….I just have to follow. And maybe leave my trail of “stuff” as I do. I know He is “mine”….not because I won him or demanded him or took him from another, but because he loved me first, and he pursued me as though He loved no other. So I lift my empty hands, and let go of all I can’t own or control. And I stand waiting for them to be filled anew, knowing there is no true emptiness as long as He’s “Mine.” <3