It was a regularly scheduled evening earlier this week. My wife, Jessica, and I finished dinner, and our entire focus was on getting a toddler to wind down from the day. I ran his bath, wrestled his clothing from his body, and I took Ian into our bedroom to remove his diaper.
As he lied on his back, I took off the diaper. In a flash, he flipped to his hands and knees and was racing across the bed. It happened so fast. Before I knew it, time slowed down as Ian tumbled off the other side of the bed.
A thump, a crash, some tears and screams ensued. I picked him up, as Jessica raced into the room, and we comforted him as we discussed what to do next. Ultimately he was fine, albeit a little bruised.
Later, as I reflected upon the evening, what scared me the most was the feeling of helplessness that settled in the pit of my stomach. Everything that happened after I set him down on the bed was completely beyond my control. And I crave being in control.
I also have an enormous dislike for anything cliché. This aversion is especially strong when religious sayings are concerned. I frequently quip: “If it fits on a bumper sticker, it doesn’t mean much.” I believe in thinking deeply about matters of faith and have a difficult time believing anyone can do that in a 15 word statement.
I can, however, recognize and admire the thought behind the pith of any statement. It is possible to redefine and deconstruct a cliche to appreciate the ingredients within and the heart from which it comes. The particular religious cliché which applies to the story here is: Let Go and Let God.
As I continued to ponder my strong feelings in regards to loss of control, this phrase continued to pop in my head. I spit it out with vigor each time. It continued to return.
I remembered a story from Acts 16 in which Paul and Silas were imprisoned. They freed a slave-girl from what the scripture says was a “spirit of divination” (NRSV). Interestingly, this act of freedom was done out of annoyance, rather than compassion. It seems as if Paul, as they traveled over several days, got fed up with the woman. He ordered the spirit to come out, in the name of Christ.
Events beyond their control mushroomed from the time of that act. The owners of the slave-girl, angry that their sideshow act would no longer be financially fruitful, dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities. Subsequently, they were thrown in jail. They had no control over their future and that future was, quite certainly, unknown.
What is noteworthy to me is how Paul and Silas dealt with their imprisonment. Acts 16:25 states: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
I can say for certain I would have been making a different sort of noise in that situation, and it would not have been joyful. What began as an act of annoyance–and subsequently was a positive outcome for this slave-girl–turned into an incredible act of faith for these two itinerant apostles.
The conclusion one can draw from the rest of this story is that God freed these prisoners. They used this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to spread the Gospel. They trusted God, despite their surroundings, loss of freedom or control.
Essentially, they “Let Go and Let God.”
I can get on board with this cliché, especially when it leads me to understand that I can trust God to work within all situations of my life. I still work hard. I still try to protect my family from harm. I still try to make positive things happen.
“Let Go and Let God” can now be redefined as a statement that says: “When one cannot control all of life’s circumstances, trust that God is consistently working for the betterment of God’s Kingdom.”
I’ll also remember that my son is slippery and very fast.
By Lee Prophitt