SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee

March 26, 2019

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s human nature, but I’ve noticed a real tendency in myself to hold onto the things I like. Whether it be people, situations, circumstances, things, whatever, if I like it, I don’t want to let it go.

Now, there are some things that are worth holding onto, things that I ought to hold onto. I think of my faith, my marriage, my family and friends. These are important, even foundational, to who I am and who I want to become. How healthy is it, though, to cling tightly to even these things simply because of what they do for me or how they make me feel?

Lord willing, my wife and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage this summer, and we dated for five-and-a-half years before that. We truly were just kids when we met, 15 and 16 years old, though wisdom dictates I don’t tell you which of us is older. Over the years, we’ve encountered our share of circumstances and events that have caused us to hold tightly to one another.

Early in our relationship, our youth pastor shared an illustration that spoke deeply to us. He took a pencil in hand and began to write. As he wrote, he challenged me to grab the pencil out of his hand. It came right out. I returned the pencil to him, and he began to write again, this time holding it much more tightly. I tried to take it back, but he held it so tightly I couldn’t pull it loose. He won…or did he? What I hadn’t realized was that he also held it so tightly he could hardly write with it. He held it so tightly he wasn’t able to use it for its intended purpose. The challenge for us was to consider whether or not our burgeoning relationship, focusing so tightly on one another, was keeping us from being/doing that to which God was calling each of us.

Is it possible to cling so tightly to the things I know and love that I squeeze the meaning or the purpose out of them? That I squeeze the life out of them? As we considered our youth pastor’s challenge, we became convinced that God was calling us to commit our lives both to Him and to one another. The clear lesson, however, was that we could never allow ourselves to be so consumed with one another that we neglected those God puts around us.

So, is it possible to hold too tightly? I believe it is. If my wife and I had tried to cling to that high school relationship we so enjoyed back then, we wouldn’t know and love the people we’ve become so many years later. And my faith in God? While God hasn’t changed, my understanding of God has changed immeasurably as I’ve allowed him to change me. Had I held rigidly to only what I knew early on, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

My wife and I were recently challenged to let go of a congregation and a small-group of which we’d been part for more than five years. God was leading us to accept a leadership role at another church, and, as much as we wanted to do that, we didn’t want to let go of what we knew and loved. Our church and our small-group had blessed us incredibly through some very trying circumstances.

As we followed our understanding of God’s call, though, we were reminded of that illustration from our youth pastor. If we chose to hold tightly to what we knew, what we had, what we loved, how much might we miss? As teens, it was by loosening the grip on our relationship with each other that we experienced the fullness of our relationship today. If we held too tightly to our small-group and our church, what might we miss if we failed to step out into the future God has laid-out ahead of us? I wondered, too, if there were other things in my life I hold onto too tightly.

What about you? Are there things in your life to which you cling too tightly or hold onto for the wrong reasons? Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s all of us.