What to keep and what to let go….
This year, rather than make promises to myself as the chimes started at twelve o’clock on New Year’s Eve, I prepared in advance. Nothing new, just part of my ongoing battle to get closer to God… I’m learning to let go, to give in to His plan, His benevolence, His will.
If you look in any of the drawers or cupboards around the house where my husband and I live with our son, Jamie, you would find an astonishing number of them contain stuff that ’might become useful one day’. I am a hoarder… clothes, padded envelopes, rubber bands, outgrown toys, old business cards, defunct mobile phones. I just looked what was in our kitchen drawer and I have to say, the list was comprehensive, and all tied up with unraveled string.
But I would venture to suggest that the physical stuff that I cling onto is probably as nothing when compared to the mental, emotional and spiritual mill stone that I drag around behind me. I’m not quite sure why we collect it all up, what it is in our psyche that feels the need to hold tight, that makes us afraid to make room in our hearts, spirits and minds for new possibilities, new opportunities, new relationships and most importantly for God to be able to work in our lives… but hold onto it, we do.
Even when I realise that handing it all over to God would be a positive step, the act of doing so evades me. Hurts, failed relationships, resentments for long past injustices. And most pointless of all, I hold on tightly to the very things I’m trying to get God’s help with… I really should know better. When we ask God to intervene in our lives, He does actually need real freedom to act.
Perhaps I should tell you how I came to be able to sing.
When I was sixteen I started going regularly to church with a school friend. It was my first real experience of a ’live’ church and I loved it.
One night we were travelling home after the service and I realised that the others were discussing a rehearsal for a band. I asked what they were talking about and was told that they were planning to start a band playing Christian music.
Well, I couldn’t play an instrument and I’d always been told I couldn’t sing, but, nonetheless I felt I could have a go at backing vocals. I muscled my way in, and as a result I felt I had achieved a level of cool that I’d never hoped to see in my whole life.
Until the first rehearsal. When my lack of talent became abundantly clear to all of us… worst of all, to me.
The rest of the band – bless them – were clearly in an uncomfortable dilemma. Should they get rid of me and lose the dreadful noise in the back row? Or should they give me a tambourine, take away the microphone and reduce my impact on the sound as much as possible, thereby never actually having the embarrassment of sacking me? Looking back, I feel for them.
I remember how I felt, and I promise you, it was painful. I knew what I had to do… I needed to admit my shortcomings and leave the band graciously; but that would mean admitting to all my school friends the truth about my lack of ability… Oh boy! I’d just achieved some small level of cool and I was about to lose it again?
I was desperate.
I prayed, asking God to help me; I prayed for courage, humility, honesty. Everything I didn’t have and knew I needed. I realised that my only way through this maze was to hand it over to God completely. To let go.
I spent the ensuing week praying. I didn’t sing once. I was delighted to realise that God would have other, equally exciting plans for me.
The next rehearsal found me sitting and watching the band practice without feeling the need to take part myself. Thank you God. I felt completely in His hands, completely in His will. Peaceful.
As the end of the rehearsal arrived, it seemed that the leader of the band suddenly became aware of my presence. There were only a few of us left in the room and he took the opportunity to hear some of the songs I’d been writing. “Come on Pen” he said, “let’s hear what you’ve been up to”.
I sang through a couple of ditties I’d put together. He looked at me quizzically. “Sing this” he said, giving me one of the songs the band had been working on. And then “sing this”, and then again “how about this one”.
There was no other way of looking at it. My voice had changed so much as to be beyond recognition. God, given my complete submission to His will, had given me not only what I had asked for…
He had given me the very desire of my heart.
It’s something I’m working on… nothing new. Part of my ongoing battle to get closer to God… I’m learning to let go, to give in to His plan, His benevolence, His will.
One day, with His help, I’ll do it.