"Work hard and you’ll get ahead."
"Save some money for a rainy day."
"You can be whatever you want."
These common phrases provide some practical advice for a person - especially a person beginning their adult life. They are also phrases that may encourage us to hold onto things preventing us from living in a way that is more centered and connected to reality.
Here is a fact to ponder: there are many things we must let go of in life. At some point, we will be called on to let go of everything. In our final death everything must go.
Is there a way to learn how to let go of the things we hold on so tightly? Can we learn how to die while we are still alive? Many times we are forced to let go of things – we may lose a loved one or a job or we may go through a painful divorce. Being forced to let go of things does not necessarily mean that we learn the lesson that presents itself in those moments. We seem to spend most of our formative years learning how to build our lives and how to hang on to what we have built. As we grow older the things that we have built usually fall apart in some way. We are forced to let go of much of what defined us in our formative years. It is in this process of letting go that we most often learn life’s most valuable lessons. Learning to let go is not something that can be taught in a classroom. The pain of the experience must be taken in and internalized then transformed. It is never an easy process to let go of something you are attached to or something you love.
In music, one must spend hours practicing technique and learning theory only to let go of all that knowledge and become a conduit to communicate the raw emotion of the music. It is really all about communicating feeling to the listener which requires technique and theory, but if one is too focused on technique and theory, the feeling will never come out.
So one must let go of something they worked so hard on to give birth to something else. Letting go is a birthing process that is often painful, but worth the pain. This is how we grow.
In the spiritual life we must let go of many things that we have learned in order to better understand our relationship with God. Our relationship must evolve or it will just become a way to satisfy our ego. I believe that this is the lesson we learn from Jesus when he speaks of putting old wine into new wineskins. It is the paschal mystery – the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is something that happens often in our lives if we are open to it. It is also something that prepares us for the final death. If we can truly learn to let go now, I believe we will have a better sense of how to let go, and to look forward to, the end.
As the New Year approaches, I invite you to pay attention to the moments in your life that force you to let go of something to which you are attached. Be patient with the suffering that may ensue and trust that God will transform you into a person that has grown in wisdom and love.
Life in the spirit
John is a professional musician and a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. His blog will center around the arts in spirituality and how spirituality applies to everyday life.
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