Monday, September 8, 2008

Letting Go

        I won’t be at the 8 a.m. service this year -- at least not all the time.
Someone else needs to lead the Brownie troop. I have reluctantly concluded the Bible Study Breakfast will need to be hosted by someone else. We will need someone new to take on organizing the St. John’s team at the food pantry. I will not be available to chaperone field trips or plan the new First Friday Christian Education program. There will be far fewer cookouts and dinners and day-long excursions with friends.
        I start CPE this week, and combined with two classes, have probably signed up for something rather more than a full-time job. I need to do these things, but I already know that it comes at a cost of doing other things. There are only so many hours in the day, and convincing myself I can do them all will only mean I will not do any of them.

        But it’s really hard letting things go. It’s not just a sense of obligation, although that’s certainly a part of it. The people who will take up my left-behind tasks are mostly just as busy as I am. This year, though, they have put themselves forward to manage some things I can’t, and may God bless their efforts. But if it proves too much for them, too, well, the world will not end because my daughter has to wait until next year to participate in a Brownie troop and the Bible Study Breakfast serves donuts picked up on the way to the church instead of pancakes and waffles.

        What makes this so hard is that these were things I have been happy to do, that have given me great joy. Some I picked up because if I didn’t, no one would, but I came to love the task. Others tasks I sought out because they are something I am passionate about, and leaving them behind is so hard because how can I know someone else will do it as well, or with as much energy and love?

        But they are not the things that are most important. Preparing to tackle the new tasks ahead of me has forced me to examine all the things I currently do and think about what is really important in ways I rarely do. I suppose most of us don’t, most of the time. Instead we let the tasks pile up and pile up until something gives. And then we feel guilty, and pile on more stuff out of guilt. Maybe eventually we pile it on until what gives is something we never would have chosen to surrender if we had thought about it: our marriage, or a friendship, our relationship with our parents or children, our awareness of God’s presence in our lives. Love bears all things, so sometimes maybe we just trust the people we love can always bear just one more thing -- until they don’t. We are not perfect in love, after all. If we were, we wouldn’t let guilt and duty push out the needs of love. We’d know what was most important, and we’d always manage to put it first.

        This is, I understand, what people faced with serious illness or other disasters learn -- that an awful lot of what you thought was essential isn’t, really. I am fortunate that my internal inventory is being forced by new opportunities, not tragedy. I am incredibly lucky that I will have the opportunity to pick many of them back up, refreshed and appreciating them all the more for having had to leave them aside. And some of them I will leave in the hands of others for good, as God pries my fingers from them so that others may find joy in that service.

        Letting go is hard, but it’s all in God’s hands. All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.