January 19, 2021

Laying It Down, In Real Life

“Lay it down.” 

“Let it go.”

“Give it to God.”

What in the world does this look like? 

Because until we stand in the immediate presence of Jesus, we are most definitely in the world, even while we’re not supposed to be of it.

“Lay it down.”

“Let it go.”

“Give it to God.”

We know these are good ideas. We know this is what we should do. We know this is the best way.

But every time I see or hear this advice, I think, “Yes, but HOW??!!”

What does this really mean?

What does it look like in practice?

And also, “just” lay it down? It doesn’t usually feel like “just” to me, because the “it” I’m supposed to be “just” giving to God or laying down or letting go of—my burden or worry or struggle or fear—is almost always connected in some way to some person I love. Someone I very much want to clutch to me.

“Lay it down” is no simple advice to follow because I’m almost never needing to lay down an “it” but a “who.”

The it may be worry or fear or a weight, but my goodness, the who is my child or my husband or my friend or even my own self.

Yet I know it is for the best good of all these “whos” that I do unclench my fists of worry, fear, et al, and lay down, let go, give up to God
Who is infinitely able to bear them for me while He cares about the “whos” behind them. 

But—back to this again—what does this laying, letting, giving look like in real life? Not just as an “amen” to someone’s “let it go” post on social media? Not just as a nod of agreement to a preacher’s “give it to God” in a sermon?

Sometimes, it looks like a symbolic but also literal physical act: in prayer, clenching my fists, holding on...then opening my hands, palms up, and praying, “Here, God. Here it it. Take it.” And turning my open hands over, palms down.

Sometimes, it looks like turning whatever I’m clutching into a sacrificial thank offering. “Sacrificial,” because it will cost me something to give: my comfort, my familiarity with the burden, my feelings. 
“Offering,” because this is what I will present to God. “Thank,” because what I will sacrificially give is my gratitude. I am worried, maybe, about my child. But I am thankful I have her to care about. I am burdened, maybe, by my schedule. But I am thankful I have meaningful work to do. 

Sometimes, it looks like getting control of my thoughts ahead of time. If I’m trying to let go of something, that letting go is going to happen first in my brain. So if (and this is not a very big “if”) I know that something is going to be my first conscious thought in the morning, I can preselect an alternate thought. A thanksgiving, a praise to God, a name of God, a Scripture. I wake up, and the worry or the burden shows up immediately. But I already have its override ready. I plug it in...letting go, laying down, giving up.

Sometimes, it looks like starving the thing. Like not feeding it more time or attention or energy or new information or one more check-in.

Sometimes, it looks like sifting out the lies that are adding the most burdensome weight to whatever I’m carrying and washing them down the drain with the water of truth. What is it about what I’m trying to let go of that, if I’m honest, isn’t true? What’s the counteracting truth? Pour that on. Let the lies go down the drain.

Lay it down.

Let it go.

Give it to God.

These cannot just be nice ideas; they have to be real-life choices. And they will never be one-time acts; they will always be repeat motions. They will be hard. I will have to fight myself.

But I trust, even if only with a mustard-seed’s worth of faith, that if I give up fear, I’ll gain freedom. If I let go of worry, I’ll take hold peace. If I lay down despair, I’ll pick up hope.

It won’t be a “just” job. But the payout might just be nothing less than joy.

January 8, 2021

Parenting Is the Riskiest Thing I’ve Ever Done

I am not a risk-taker.

The worst that can happen—as in, "what’s the worst that...?"—is usually far too "worst" for me.

This is the same reason I can’t sell ANYTHING. My husband, a natural salesman like his father before him, says, "My dad always said, 'The worst someone can say is 'no.''" To which I always reply, "EXACTLY! They might say no! I’d rather just not ask in the first place." I honestly can’t think of a possible "yes" that’s worth the risk of a "no."

Yet here I am, 22 contiguous years into parenting, and it’s easily the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

Honestly, I think it’s the riskiest thing any parent who’s in it for the long haul and for the highest good of their children ever does.

No one tells you this, of course. Baby shower and new baby cards don’t say, "Congratulations! You have just leapt off the highest cliff of your life!" They say things about new hands to hold and a new heart to love. Both of which, bless the day, are true!

But it’s a chancy truth.

Love is always a risk. We risk our hearts. We risk our comfort. We risk our convenience. But often we make this investment with some reassurance that love will be returned. We get married and enter into a covenant...a promise that goes both ways. Or we love a friend who, at least to begin with, seems to love us back.

But parenting is a chance we take without any prior agreement from one of the major parties involved. Our children can rightly tell us, “I didn’t ask to be born!” (And many children across the ages have availed themselves of this claim.)

Signing on voluntarily to love the children we bring into the world is in a risk class all its own. It reminds me of what Mary Steenburgen’s character tells Steve Martin’s character in the movie Parenthood: "What do you want? Guarantees? These are kids, not appliances."

We risk our children not loving us. We risk them not liking us. We risk them breaking our hearts. We risk them leaving us.

We risk pain where they are concerned that is none of their own doing and also pain that is.

We take this edgy chance partly because we don’t know what we’re getting into (ignorance being if not bliss then at least emboldening).

We also take it because we suspect there are joys to be had in this uncertain game we won’t find by playing it safe.

But mostly we take it because we trust it will be worth it.

Worth it in the most life-changing, life-bettering ways.

Worth it when they learn something new we’ve taught them.

Worth it when they learn something new we didn’t teach them.

Worth it when they teach us something we needed to learn but couldn’t have learned any other way.

Worth it when we fight and win battles together.

Worth it when we get to watch them do something that lights them up.

Worth it when they make the world a better place.

Worth it when they do something only they can do.

Worth it when they’re loved enough to leave us when they can.

Worth it when they love us enough to come back when they can.

Worth it when they fill up a space in our hearts we didn't know was waiting for anything.

I know there are parents who wish with all their broken hearts they hadn’t taken this risk. I can only try to start to imagine all the reasons this might be true. How I hope these parents will be surprised in the near future by joys they can’t begin to imagine in the present.

But for me—and I do not take this one bit for granted—becoming a parent is without question the biggest chance I’ve ever taken that I’d absolutely, without a doubt, take all over again.