- Letting Go
- Luke 17:33
- Bill Couch May 3, 2015
Bridges, Building Better Relationships
This morning we conclude our series of message entitled Bridges, Building Better Relationships. We want to acknowledge Pastor Kerry Shook from Houston whose messages stimulated our thoughts about relationships. We have looked at the importance of being intentional, being all there, and risking awkwardness. These messages apply to all our relationships: marriage, parent/child, siblings, co-workers, friends and neighbors. Today we look at the importance of letting go—it is one of the keys to experiencing authentic relationships. Jesus summed it up with these words recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
Luke 17:33 “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” (New Living Translation)
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it.” That is not only true of our own life; it is true of all our relationships. Whatever you hold too tightly, you will eventually crush the life out it—or it will crush the life out of you. Letting go is the highest expression of love and enables us to experience rich, full relationships. This morning I want us to look at some of the things we cling to that create barriers in our relationships with others and with ourselves.
If we cling to these three emotions: anger, hurt and bitterness they can become barriers to relationships. Every emotion has a message. When we are feeling something, we don’t need to push it down, deny it or spew it out on everyone around us. We need to look at the emotion and ask, “What is its message?” If I’m feeling angry, I have been violated in some way and anger is a response to protect myself from something harmful. At other times we are angry because we see someone else being violated or treated unfairly. I need to get the message: what is I’m angry about? What must be protected and what must be restored? What can I do in a healthy way to protect myself or someone else from harm? Anger becomes a barrier in relationships when we cling to it without resolving it. We stay mad. We spew anger. We become an angry person. The Apostle Paul said, “Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26) Be aware of it, deal with it, but don’t cling to it. I struggle with this sometimes. My pattern is to hang on to it and let it simmer for awhile and then boil over. Anger is not bad; it is how we deal with it that determines whether or not it becomes a barrier in our relationships.
Hurt is another emotion that is just information. It has a message. Why am I hurting? Did someone disappointment me, let me down, reject me, ignore me? Sometimes we mask our hurt with anger. To express our hurt to another person makes us vulnerable. What if I tell someone what they did to hurt me and they are indifferent, they don’t care or just tell me to get over it? Then my hurt is intensified. So rather than express hurt, I choose to express anger because it puts me on the offensive. It puts a force field around me to keep me from getting hurt again. My hurts can become a barrier if I hang onto them and don’t forgive the other person for hurting me. Some people have lists of thousands of hurts they have never expressed or forgiven and these hurts become a thick barrier blocking out relationships. In order to let it go, we need to risk sharing our hurt and be willing to forgive regardless of how the other person responds.
Bitterness is a flashing red light on our emotional dashboard informing us that we have gripped our hurt or anger too tightly, too long. The dictionary says that bitterness is “characterized by strong feelings of hatred, resentment, cynicism.” Bitterness means we have hardened our feelings toward someone. We want to get even for what they have done to us and we will not let go until we do. But getting even doesn’t really resolve the bitterness. We have not dealt with the basic emotions that lead to bitterness. Forgiveness—letting go of the need to get even—is the only way out. Are you clinging to anger or hurt that has perhaps hardened into a thick wall of bitterness toward someone? How much different would you feel if you would express those emotions in a healthy way and then regardless of how the other person responds you let go and forgive?
Another way that we cling to someone is through control. It can take a variety of forms. Some people seek to control others by fixing them—which means making them into the person I want them to be. Have you ever felt that someone was trying to change you? How did that go? Whenever we feel that someone is trying to change us, we feel rejected. We are not good enough the way we are and so they need to make us into a new, improved edition! We become defensive and resistant to change. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” How does Jesus love us? He loves us unconditionally, just as we are. While we were yet sinners—flawed, imperfect, messed up—Christ died for us. He offers us grace—total acceptance of us right where we are. He doesn’t ask us to change in order to earn his love. He offers us his love as a gift. When we feel so completely accepted and loved, we feel free to change. We want to become all we can be as an expression of our gratitude for the love and acceptance Jesus offers us. When we seek to control others, we are not loving them the way Jesus loved us. We are saying to the other person, “I can’t love you the way you are. You need to change in order for me to love you.”
The need to control becomes a huge barrier in relationships. Beneath our need to control is fear. We are afraid our needs are not going to be met. My husband or wife or children are not going to meet my needs the way they are. So I have to change them to be what I need them to be to meet all my needs. If we are constantly trying to control others and change them, it may be a symptom that we have not deeply experienced God’s love and grace. Only God can meet our deepest needs. No human being can meet our deepest needs. In order to have healthy relationships we need to first experience God’s grace and acceptance. We need to fully embrace it—feel it to our very core. And then we can release that grace in our relationships with others. When we accept others the way they are, we let them go to become who God created them to be and not who we think they should be. We quit playing God! Are you clinging to the need to control in your relationships?
Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it.” Clinging to our own lives is called selfishness. It is putting me first and getting others to serve me and do what I want. Self is at the center of my life and everything revolves around me. When we are clinging to our own lives, it becomes a barrier in all our relationships and eventually we wind up living a very limited and lonely life.
I know you have all been wondering when the song called “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” would be mentioned! It is now. It is a really catchy tune and I love the song. What is the message of the song? A princess named Elsa has this mysterious power to instantly freeze things. While playing “quick freeze” games with her sister, Anna, Elsa accidently hurts her. Elsa isolates herself in a room to keep from hurting Anna again. Of course, she emotionally hurts Anna by withdrawing from her. When she is coronated queen, Elsa comes out of isolation. Her younger sister Anna meets a young man and asks Elsa’s permission to marry him. Elsa does not think it is a good idea and they get into an argument. This emotional outburst, unleashes all her freezing powers and the whole kingdom is thrust into perpetual winter. Elsa flees to the mountains singing, “Let It Go.” Let’s listen to a portion of the song.
VIDEO: Song from Frozen “LET IT GO”
If you are hard of hearing like I am, it helps to have the lyrics on screen. But many people still misunderstand the lyrics, so I asked our grandson Rory to give you the real lyrics to this song:
VIDEO: CLIP OF RORY SINGING “READY GO”
Now you know that the song title should be “Ready Go!”
It sounds like a song of freedom, but at the end of the song she has locked herself in an ice castle and is totally isolated again. Listen to these phrases from the song:
Turn away and slam the door! I don’t care what they’re going to say Let the storm rage on, The cold never bothered me anyway!
And the fears that once controlled me Can’t get to me at all! You’ll never see me cry!
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free! She claims to be free but she is limited and lonely. She has surrounded herself with barriers of ice inside and out. No relationships. “Let It Go” is really a sad song about clinging to self. Anna searches for her sister and when she finds her they have another encounter. Elsa lashes out at Anna and her heart begins to freeze. The only thing that can save her is an act of true love. The villain, Hans, also finds Elsa’s castle and seeks to kill her so he can take over the kingdom. As he raises his sword to kill Elsa, Anna jumps in between just as she is totally frozen. Hans’ sword strikes her icy hand and shatters knocking him to the ground. Elsa hugs the frozen body of Anna and begins to weep. Suddenly Anna begins to thaw. Anna’s act of true love has saved her sister and herself. Elsa realizes that love is what can enable her to control her powers—not isolation and hurt and anger and bitterness. It is only in relationship with others that she can be whole. And the winter is over in the kingdom.
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” Jesus let his life go for us. In act of true love, he sacrificed his life that we could be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life. He offers us his unconditional love as a gift. As we prepare for communion this morning will you let go of anything that is blocking you from receiving, embracing and releasing his love in your life? As we prepare our hearts for communion, watch this video and prayerfully ask what do you need to let go of this morning?
VIDEO: “LETTING GO” Man climbing mountain and throwing bricks
(Following video—guided prayer time for both LR Praise & Sanctuary)
Resource for this series: Kerry Shook, “Love At Last Sight” sermon series