Reflections by Jerry Webber

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Holding On and Letting Go

John 12:24 - 26

"Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

I'm not often certain about how some words are translated from one language to another. For example, I only know enough Greek to be dangerous, so I can't vouch for the Greek word translated "hate" in this passage. I've heard all sorts of things about it from those who are determined to make good, common sense out of its difficulty -- and of course, doing so in a thoroughly American way.

So I don't know that where I went this morning is kosher or viable by academic standards. But for me, to "love my life" may mean to love the life I have so much that I hold onto it. I clutch it, grasp it, so "in love" with my life I am. And when that is my stance, I lose life. It means that I cannot step into another life, because I cannot let go of the one I have, the one I am in love with. To hold onto the life I have closes me down to any other possibility. It closes me down to anything else that may come at me. I have so set, so fixed my way on one thing in particular that I cannot respond to anything else that comes toward me or invites me. I cannot allow any other life into my imagination.

The mystics through the centuries have said to us that God is always waiting to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them. When I "love" my life as it is, I may actually lose the life God has dreamed for me.

To "love life" is to hold on and close down.

On the other hand, to "hate life" may imply the act of letting go and opening up. It is possible that I could be so enamored with the life I have so as to miss the life that is awaiting me. In that sense, I "hate" this life, preferring the life that is still unfolding in me. The life I now have does not satisfy me, so I stay open to what is yet to come. I am willing to step beyond where I have been.

Authentic growth and becoming implies that I have to stay open, that I have to be able to step onto paths I have not foreseen, that I have to recognize possibilities where I have seen none. When I hold onto life as it is, I short-circuit my own becoming. The tight clutching hides my becoming behind my current state. It deflects those things that would bring me to my truest self, the person God created me to be.

I wonder if this is the same "love/hate" language Jesus uses in Luke 14:26:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."

Is Jesus saying that "loving" family (and even your own life) is holding on to them in an attached way that gives you no identity apart from them? . . . and that "hating" them means letter go or detaching from them, so that you come to some sense of who you are apart from them? Doesn't Jess recognize that we come to our most basic, core identity apart from what others say and think about us, even those closest to us? We live into our true self not because of the identity others give us, but out of our own lived-experience of who we are in God.

Relationships are important, and others can help us hear the notes of our particular song; however, no other person, no matter how close they are, can impart to us our most authentic self. In an ultimate sense, no one else can name you and validate you.

But this is the difficult work of letting go, the work of releasing the life to which we cling in order to receive the life of God. It entails the difficulty of trusting that the life for which I was created is still becoming within me. None of us are good at this, and we don't enjoy it.

This is our spiritual challenge that takes a lifetime . . . it is the challenge of "loving" and "hating," of holding on and letting go.

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