Like most 3-year-olds I know, my granddaughter Lily is enthralled with the movie “Frozen” or, “Fwozen,” as she says in her baby lisp. Pulling her curly red hair tightly to one side of her head and slowly downward, she imagines it looks just like Elsa’s braid. Her new bunny is even named Olaf after the jolly snowman who frolics the frozen landscape.

But her favorite part of the show is the wildly popular song, “Let It Go, Let It Go.” Perhaps because there are only three words to remember and repeat over and over, she spends some time nearly every day singing in delight. Last Sabbath, when Pastor Harold burst forth with a few measures of “Let It Go,” I realized the broad appeal!

Recently, Lily was having some sort of crisis (not an infrequent occurrence) and she was instructed to sit on the couch for a time-out. All was quiet for a bit until we heard, in her sweet lispy voice, “Let it go. Let it go, let it go!” over and over and over. While I couldn’t help laughing, I thought, What a great song to sing when you do indeed, need to let something go!

Just what does ‘letting go’ mean? And more importantly, how do we do it? We hear it a lot, yet, if we don’t know how to accomplish such a feat, it’s of little practical use.

“Meister Eckhart said, ‘The spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition.’ All great spirituality is about letting go.  We tend to think at almost every level that more is better, even though, as E. F. Schumacher said years ago, ‘less is more.’

“There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

“To Western people, surrender and letting go sounds like losing. But it’s actually accessing a deeper, broader sense of the self, which is already whole, already content, already filled with abundant life. The scarcity model is the way we’re trained to think: ‘I am not enough. This is not enough. I do not have enough.’ So we try to attain more and more, and climb higher and higher.

“Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that you’ve created for it. If that story line has become your identity, if you are choosing to live in a victim state, an abused consciousness, it gives you a false kind of power and makes you feel morally superior to others.

“If we can forgive and let go, if we don’t hold our hurts against history and against one another, we will indeed be following Jesus. The wounds of the crucified Jesus symbolize sacred wounds, transformative wounds that do not turn him bitter. After the crucifixion, there’s no record of Jesus wanting to blame anybody or accuse anybody. In fact, his last words are breathing forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

“Perhaps the most difficult forgiveness, the greatest letting go, is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. We need to realize that we are not perfect, and we are not innocent. ‘One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence’ says Robertson Davies. If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed.

“Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God. It looks like an abyss, but it’s actually a foundation. On that foundation, you have nothing to prove, nothing to protect: “I am who I am who I am,” and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love. At that point, the one you’re in love with is both God and yourself too, and you find yourself henceforth inside of God (John 14:20)!”*

Here’s to Letting Go!
(And sing it if it helps…)

Ann Halim, editor
Republished with permission from College View Church’s eWeekend newsletter

*Excerpted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 6 (CD), R. Rohr.