Letting go of the past

This post was previously published at circleofhope.net’s main blog here.

They say that if anxiety is about the future, depression is about the past. If that’s the case, I think it’s surprisingly easy to be depressed, even on a beautiful May day like today. It’s hard to not live in our old thought patterns that usually involve fears of being hurt (as you probably were) or not being enough. My internal script often sounds something like, “You don’t have what it takes, Rachel.” I think it’s easy to fear that we don’t have what it takes to meet the demands of our lives, or our desires or expectations. Or that we can’t make a difference in this difficult political and social landscape.

Thankfully, that usually leads me to pray. I got convinced a long time ago that in fact I don’t have what it takes (to single-handedly change myself and change the world) and, in fact, that’s how it’s meant to be. I was never meant to single-handedly change myself and the world! I’m made to rely on God and others.

But this reliance is an active, not a passive thing. I can’t necessarily do today what I did yesterday. Why? Because Jesus is alive and moving. Following him requires listening for what’s next, and letting go of the past, even the good stuff that I’m tempted to get sentimental about and hold too tightly. Why? Because I’m likely to put too much of my energy into holding, and miss my opportunity to move forward in trust. I thought about this as my daughter rode away on her bike to school for the first time this morning. I had to pray that she’d remember the route and traffic laws that we practiced yesterday. And that no drivers would be distracted around her. Ultimately I had to put us both in God’s hands again, trusting that he’ll take care of us no matter what.

Mary Magdalene had a moment like this with Jesus right after his resurrection. She was a devoted disciple, so grieved after his death. When he appears again, she clings to him, of course! He had saved her, and given her a whole new life. But he says, “Mary, do not hold on to me.”

Based on everything that happens next, I think there was a great promise in Jesus’s words. He was not done saving the world, and he needed Mary to move with him. His love needed to be shared with everyone, not just the little crew who knew him so far. And he was “ascending” to the Father to pray for people to be able to do that. His Spirit would come and personally empower them to share his love. Mary herself needed to become someone that others could hang on to.

All that is true for us. At least, that is the invitation, if we are able to let go of our past ideas about ourselves, that we can’t do this or that, that we are too broken or too limited or fed up to make a difference. Jesus himself offers to fill us, to be closer to us even more than he was to Mary in that moment in the garden, and not to ever leave. He will keep showing us how to be the church the world needs right now.

1 thought on “Letting go of the past

  1. The part about “Jesus is alive and moving” reminded me of some things I’ve been reading in these three little books I’ve run into: What Must the Church Do? Robert S. Bilheimer (1947), The Early Church and the Coming Great Church – John Knox (1955). The Agony of the Church – Theo Westow (1968). A distinction between an institution and a movement… which may be more about which the organization really is at heart, whether it fights the temptation to become an institution and remain a movement at heart. Sorry to go on like this! Anyway, here is my summary of what I gleaned from the books on this point.

    • Institution. An institution is static, intent on preservation, essentially inward-looking, usually held together by legal rules, constitutions, an internal hierarchy of rank and office, owning property, possessing a membership, employing people, carrying on a program (TW 49, RSB 70). Everywhere there is an almost scandalous overlapping and duplication of effort among institutions. (RSB 78)

    • Movement. A movement is constantly on the move, has to be adaptable, is essentially outward-looking, has very little to maintain its unity but the “cause”, the conviction, the call. Christ established it on the basis of a personal call: “Follow me.” (TW49) Admittedly, even a movement requires some organization. (TW 52)

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