The third line of the prayer I am studying this year begins with release. If my word for 2014 is “receive”, then my word for 2013 should have been “release”. I released many things that year – my sons, one of my roles at church, my youth (I turned 50), trying to fix those I love, people I had discipled and finally the big release of my home and life in Pennsylvania. (See blog entries 3/8/14, 1/21/14 and 2/23/13.)
Last entry, I looked at receiving whatever God gives without guilt and without complaint. Now, I take a step back, because I believe I often cannot receive unless I first release. Sarah Young in Jesus Calling describes it like this:
Clinging to other things makes it hard for you to receive My precious gifts. That is like wrapping your fingers tightly around a small copper coin, while I am offering you unlimited supplies of pure gold. To receive My proffered gift, you must first open your hands and your heart to Me.
Releasing can be instantaneous or a process. Even though I got down on my knees months ago and offered my home to the Lord as a sacrifice, I found I had to continue to release it, right up until the day it finally sold! The day before settlement, I wrote this in my journal,
One part of me is rejoicing and so ready to be rid of this house, so we can move on. The other part of me still mourns for the home I loved, fixed up and made great memories in. Have I truly and fully released it? I offered it up many months ago, but did I release it? How can I know? Do I still think about it and long for it? Do I obsess over it? Do I still compare other homes to it? Do I still desire it? Can I let go of more than the physical house? Until I do, I will not truly enjoy the new home coming my way. I will always think that kitchen was better or that living room was nicer or I wish I had the glass block or the patio. Will my memory of it be false, over glorified, better that it really was?
This was the problem the Israelites had when they wandered in Egypt. Their immanent death and starvation in the dessert clouded their memory of their real life in slavery. “Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, because it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'” (Exodus 14:12) “We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Numbers 11:5).
Every time I read these accounts, I am reminded at how quickly I can forgot the realities of my life, remembering only the things I want to remember. Uncomfortable situations often cause me to have distorted thoughts and keep me from releasing what God takes. I believe releasing means that I concentrate on remembering and appreciating the provisions of “manna” today instead of dreaming of the “leeks and onions” of the past.
The second half of this prayer is, in my opinion, a bit harder…what you take. We don’t like the idea that God takes away from us. We learn from Scripture that our enemy takes away and comes to steal. Sin robs us. Other people take from us and we even cause things to be taken away by our poor choices. But God? Does our loving God really take away from us? Job says so in chapter 1, verse 21, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed.” It was Satan who instigated the “taking away”, but Job attributes it to God. God permitted Job’s family, wealth and health to be taken away.
I don’t really like this concept. But then I was challenged by the realization that I usually think that God only wants to take good things away from me. Things that I love. Why don’t I realize that God wants to also take things that I carry needlessly, that harm me, that prevent me from moving forward, from growing? Just like God took away the Israelites’ slavery. Zephaniah 3:19 says God will take away my humiliation. Luke 1:25 says he will take away my disgrace. Matthew 11:28 says he will take my burdens. And of course there are many verses that remind me that God takes away my sin (Romans 11:27, 1 John 3:5). God will take away the hard stuff if I will release it. Again, Sarah Young expresses it beautifully:
In order to hear My voice, you must release all worries into my care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My face unhindered. Let me free you from fear that is hiding deep inside you. My main work is to clear out debris and clutter, making room for My Spirit to take full possession. Collaborate with Me in this effort by being willing to let go of anything I choose to take away.
When something has been taken away from me, I tend to focus only on the good things I have to give up (like my house in Pennsylvania). Instead I am learning that God has a promised land in front of me (a new home and ministry in Texas), if I will only trust him and journey onward, releasing “Egypt and the leeks”.
What do you need to release today? What are you clinging to that is keeping you from facing the future? What “leeks and onions” are you longing for? What things has God taken away that you can be grateful for?
Take a few moments now to sit quietly with the Lord and answer these questions before him.
Lord, I want your Spirit to take full possession of me. I want you to clear out debris and clutter in my life. I release again those things that are holding me back from fully receiving all you want to give me. I release possessions, people, worries and sin. Thank you for taking my burdens and sins. Thank you for the “manna” you give in place of “leeks and onions”. Thank you for taking away slavery and giving freedom. I open my hands and heart to you today. Amen.