For a friend of mine, let’s call her Mary, it is her daughter-in-law who drives her nuts. Her son’s wife violates everything that my friend holds holy and natural, but it is the neglect of the health of her grandchildren that she has the most trouble turning over to God. Mary has a very close relationship with Christ, but on this one issue, she turns the situation over and then snatches it right back, again and again. She is sure that God wants her to let this situation go into his hands, but it’s very hard for her to give up the anger and sorrow she feels about her grandchildren.
The biggest challenge of the Life of the Spirit is to let go and let God be in charge once and for all. Each of us has issues that are easy to turn over and ones that we cling to out of anger or fear. Over time more issues are easily handed over to Christ, as we see how much better our lives work when he is in charge instead of us. I’ve struggled to surrender with various issues—my weight and one of my sons, until I was finally able to let them go into his hands. But for a long time it seemed to be a tug of war between my need to control and my need to surrender. To let go into an uncertain future, to give up control, to put my own agenda totally into God’s hands has been a formidable task.
Judgment and an unwillingness to surrender seem to go hand in hand. Mary’s judgment of her daughter-in-law, her condemnation of the actions vis-à-vis the children, stands in the way of surrender. Jesus shed some light on this type of situation when he says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”[Matthew 18:19] The same saying appears in Matthew 16:18 after he tells Peter that he is the rock on which he will build his church, but the passage in Chapter 18 comes in the midst of the teaching about the brother who sins against you. Twice Jesus says this, so I think there is a very important principle to look at here.
“Whatever you bind on earth” I take as anything or anyone we judge or condemn, somehow our judgment restricts any change in the person or circumstances. Our judgment is powerful and blocks any change or movement, and furthermore “will be bound in heaven. I think we can project out how the person feels who is so bound by our judgment from our own experience when someone judges us. “It’s not fair!” is our(and theirs) cry. And the judgment makes it harder to change, because we choose to defend ourselves rather than listen to the complaint. Between our unyielding judgment and the person’s defensive posture, nothing will change. If, however, we are able to surrender our judgment and condemnation, then we allow something new and creative to happen, as God is now free to work with that person or situation: “Whatever you loose on earth,” that is, when you let go of judgment and condemnation, then that “will be loosed in heaven.”
Part of our heart is iced over when we judge another. Judgment is more revealing of ourselves and our attitudes than it is of the other we judge. Ice is rigid, definitely a form of water, but water is meant to flow; the same is true of the love in our hearts. It is meant to flow out to others and to ourselves, but judgment freezes the person and ourselves if that’s who we judge. Like the Artic icecap in the winter, there is no chance of movement. Until there is a thaw in the late spring or summer in the Artic, there is no movement, no flow. As the Artic Icecap yields to the warmer temperatures, the ice begins to break up and to melt. So it is with our hearts, with surrendering difficult situations and people to God, in the resurrection season our judgment begins to break up, allowing change in the person or situations and in us, until there is a surprising resolution.
The problem is that we cannot see clearly what God has in mind for the person or situation or how he will resolve it. So it is hard to trust that he can affect the person. We have to trust before we see any change in the other, before there is any change in our hearts. That takes a powerful faith and trust that God can accomplish miracles far beyond anything we think is possible. We must let God do what God will do.
The last 25 years for me have been a series of surrenders as I have discovered things small and large that stand between the Lord and me. It’s a practice in my life now to turn over something to God as soon as I discover that I am clinging to it: my way of doing things, my expectations, my attitudes, especially the negative thinking and emotions behind them; when I become aware of them, I turn them over.
What is the issue you cling to? How might you begin to turn it over to God? Will you let go and let God?