Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving Forward

Sometimes we have a hard time letting go.
We have to move on in life, but we can’t let go of the past.
We can’t let go of something that happened.
We want to hold onto grudges, people not good for us, lives we wished we had.
But letting go is essential in life.
It is essential for new birth.
It is essential for growth and change.
Letting go is essential for us to move forward.

In our Biblical story this morning we start with the Samuel having a hard time letting go.
Saul was his king.
He had been Saul’s spiritual adviser.
He didn’t want to let go.
“When will you stop mourning Saul?” God asks.
When will you move on?
When will you let go of what used to be?

It is tough for us to let go, to move forward, and to see things from a new perspective.
I think back on my own life, and some of the things I have left in the past.
It was not easy.
It was painful.
I have had to move on from certain relationships that were not good for me, or for the other person.
In the long run it worked out, it was for the best, but it was still difficult.
Just as it is difficult for Samuel to leave behind Saul and find the next king.

It is interesting that the next king would be different from the last.
Saul was one thought of when thinking of a king.
Saul was a military leader he was tall, majestic, and strong.
God’s next choice was weak, small, and a shepherd boy.
In fact, not the person Samuel thought God would choose at all.
And this is the best reason to let things go, to move forward, because God has something new for us to learn, something new to understand about ourselves, about God, or about the world.

You know when we think that God has a plan for our lives I think we miss something important that the journey is sometimes just as important as the end.
We say God has plan because we want to get to the happy ending.
But along the way there are lots and lots of great stuff that happens to us.
We get to experience the change, to see the ways that God subtly moves us in a direction.
And we can see in the small things God at work.

In high school I had this friend who I spent most of my time with.
He was a good person, and a very good friend.
But when we were together I mostly got in trouble.
My parents didn’t really enjoy that we hung out together.
There came a point when we kind of started to drift apart because I started to change my life dramatically.
I started to do really well in school, I started to work at going to college, my faith became a more important part of my life.
And then there came a day when we stopped hanging out together at all.
It was a relationship that I had to leave behind.
I came to realize that I wanted different things in my life than my friend did.
I came to realize that we were simply going in different directions.
It was painful, but it was necessary for me to leave it behind.
I also wouldn’t take any of it back.
I don’t regret having him as a friend.
I learned lots of great things from that time in my life, but it was simply time for us to part.
I also believe that God was at work helping me move in a different direction.

I think we all have relationships like this in our lives.
They were good for us at certain times, they made sense, but at some point we had to move on, we had to grow, to change, and to find a different path.
God all the time is working on us in this way.
God is calling us to some new horizon we have not yet thought of, or dreamed of.
And it is only possible when we are ready to leave certain things behind.

I am reading the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book this year for lent.
Someone suggested that it is a good book to read as a Lenten devotion.
I am not reading it because I think I have a drinking problem, but because in its pages are many spiritual truths.
In step four, Alcoholics are encouraged to make a personal inventory of themselves.
To look at the things in their lives that need to be left behind, the things in their character that needs to be discarded.
The big book suggests that the number one flaw that alcoholics face is resentment.
It is the thing that needs to be left behind.

I thought about this and I realized that for many of us this is also true.
That we have built up in our heads a lot of resentment about our lives.
We resent that we are not more successful, more beautiful, more rich, or whatever.
We are resentful at the people in our lives that we feel are holding us back.
Our partners, our kids, our employer, our friends, can all be seen as people that we are angry at because we are not the person we think we are.
How true is that of us in our lives?
How much do we need to let go of resentment?

This lent perhaps it is good for us to think about the things that we need to let go of.
The things God is calling us to move on from.
So that we don’t build up resentment and lose track of the ways that God is trying to work in our lives.

I wonder if the disciples felt any resentment towards Jesus after his crucifixion and before Easter morning.
They had given up everything to follow him.
They had been promised that they would be “blessed”.
They had been promised that the “Kingdom of God had come near.”
They wanted so badly for Jesus to be the promised Messiah they had hoped for.
And then it all went so horribly wrong.
Perhaps they had not let go of things in their past so they could be ready for what was to come.
They had not yet given up on their idea of what a king should be, what a messiah should be.
And this is why they missed not only the end but also the journey along the way.
And therefore were not ready for the ways that God was about to change their lives.

In lent we are getting ready for Easter morning.
We are preparing ourselves for death and resurrection.
What do we need to get rid of in order to be ready for God to change our lives, and for those lives to be reborn?
What resentments are we holding on to?
What unhealthy relationships are we involved in?
What ideas of God are we holding on to that are no longer true?

Lent is a good time to take inventory of ourselves.
It is a good time to let go of unhealthy things in our lives.
It is a good time to be ready for God to change our lives so that as Christ died and rose, we too might die and rise with Jesus.
It is a good time to not worry so much about the end of the story, but to enjoy this time in our lives so we might see God’s grace at work and grow from these experiences.

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