You remember this, don’t you: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t come back, it never was.” While I find this sentiment a bit saccharine for my tastes (I have a deep suspicion of sentiment since I am convinced it is more akin to emotional “candy” than actually helpful to my life), there is an element here worth exploring.
We really do need to hold our lives, loves, and possessions loosely in our hands. Gripping anything (or anyone) too tight usually means they will fight to break the stranglehold we have on them. I will never forget watching a young niece hold her new puppy in her arms. Before the child put the Vulcan death grip on this poor dog, the puppy was playing with her and licking her and loving being around her. But then this well meaning child acted out on the fear of loss! She grabbed the dog and squeezed! And that puppy exercised all it’s might to get away from that confused little girl!
The poverty that drives our slavery to grasping and holding on too tight to things, people, and possessions is fear. We fear losing someone or something so deeply that we smother the very thing we fear losing and end up driving it or them away from us. Our fear of rejection or loss or embarrassment or discomfort drives us, actually enslaves us, to behavior that ends up destroying the very thing we insist we need! What a horrible pattern of destruction. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed in my own life my fear of losing someone or something drive me to irrational actions that ends up costing me this relationship or even this possession or position. Psychiatrist offices and psychologist offices are full of people seeking answers to their codependent relationships and their loss of relationships because of this very human weakness.
So, what’s the answer? Well, as usual, the Lord Jesus gives us the direction we need for our own freedom and spiritual health.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today: The Lord said to his disciples, “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Then Peter said in reply, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” Matthew 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30
The keys to a proper relationship with God, myself, and others always begins with God! If my life is going to be free from fear and grasping at my life, I am going to have to build into my life a consistent mindset of acknowledging God first! In fact, I will go further that all your other relationships will be out of balance until this relationship is set right. If I am ever going to stop smothering others, I am going to have to be willing to embrace my relationship with God as my first priority. Only then will I truly be able to see clearly how to prioritize my other relationships in the place they need to be! Only then will I be emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to not “hold on too tight” to others. If I allow God and His eternal love and strength to teach me who I am and who He is and who others are, then my life will be in balance. And I will be able to let go of the false expectations I have of others to meet all my needs when that job belongs to God alone!
By putting my relationship with God first, I am even set free from the actual reality of others who simply don’t understand why I am so free. They may even reject me, but I am not rejected. They may try to manipulate me, but I am free. They may end up abandoning me, but I am not abandoned. Because first things are first in my heart, all other things (and people) are in their proper place!
Today, have you suffered loss of things or relationships? Welcome to the human race. Have you learned to prioritize your relationship with God first? There is no guarantee that others around you will always understand or accept your choices to put your relationship with God at the top of your life, and they may resent or even try to change you. The peaceful and settled mind of the faithful follower of Jesus is at peace even in times like these because she holds her life loosely in her hands and trusts that God being first in her life sets her free to be at peace regardless of how others may react. Today, being Orthodox on Purpose means nothing I set free to God’s love and God’s will is forever lost to me, but the willingness to embrace the liberty of faith means that that which is truly blessing and beneficial will always be returned to me healthier and God blessed; if not here, then certainly there!
P.S. Is the priesthood a means of exercising control over God’s people? What kind of authority does the priesthood have? And is being a priest somehow a “higher” authority in the Church? This Sunday we are going to talk about authority from an Orthodox perspective on the next Faith Encouraged LIVE program. That’s this Sunday at 8 PM Eastern on AncientFaith.com.