It is in our nature to want comfort, stability and security. We sometimes think: If we had the choice, we would have preferred to stay in our mothers’ wombs where ignorance was bliss. But, at some stage, nature wanted it differently. And, as I understand it, when the time is right, unborn babies actively begin to participate in the birth process. Even though they cannot know what is waiting for them on the outside, their existing home is no longer where they want to stay and they join nature by starting to pump their legs to exit into a new world. And so, in life, there is always a part of us that wants to stay where we are as long as we can, and a part that wants to go.
What we do with our free will
The wonderful, mysterious and awe-inspiring fact is that we are born not only with bodies to move and act, and not only with minds to think and feelings to express, but with a free will. Wonderful! But it is a double-edged sword: It can free our potential to create, love and enjoy life, or it can tie us down to something miserable and disastrous. As adults we can use our developed and powerful will to hold on to things and to stay in our ‘places of comfort’ when it would have been better for us if we had let go and moved on. We can similarly at other times follow our will and turn our back on people and/or commitments and later sense that we have lost something of real value and significance – ourselves included.
Today, as enlightened and thinking people we have learned to calculate our actions and manage our risks to the degree that, in most cases, we want a convincing rational argument before we will let go. In earlier times religious doctrine was supreme for many – people wouldn’t let go of the letter of the dogmatic word as sanctioned by the church hierarchy. In both scenarios ‘living in faith’ is cast aside. In the first case in admiration for the rational argument and in the second as an escape from personal responsibility. Who needs faith if all the answers are already provided by intellectuals or by church authorities? The options seem to be either to hold on to the last best rational explanation you heard or the last sanction that was proclaimed. Else, let go of both and follow your urges more or less as an animal would do … and I don’t think that is an option we would want to consider seriously.
To travel lightly
I believe that the choice of holding on or letting go is linked to the ideal of travelling lightly in this world. And to live in faith, is to travel lightly. To rephrase, travel with as little weight as possible (letting go), but make sure that what you take with you (holding on to) are the essential things that will both sustain you and guide you on your way. We don’t travel lightly if we hold on to our opinions and are unwilling to listen and learn, with open mind (mentally), open heart (emotionally) and open will (spiritually). We don’t travel lightly if we tie our souls to material things that rust and go to waste – holding on to possessions. We don’t travel lightly if we always feel we need to defend or promote ourselves – holding on to our pride. We don’t travel lightly if we become addicted to anything – holding on to our fears and anxieties. We don’t travel lightly if other people’s opinions or perceptions derail us – holding on to our dependencies. We don’t travel lightly if we hold on to old dreams or latch on to new ones and miss the moment to feel gratitude and just be present. We don’t travel lightly if we don’t want to forgive others and ourselves – holding on to false pride. But … we also cannot travel lightly if we lose faith and let go of our true identity in God and his love – as much as we are imperfect in keeping it. To live in faith is to live both with the courage to let go of what oppresses us – however attractive it might be at times – and the humility to surrender ourselves to God’s love. That is when life can become light, new, fresh, exciting and rewarding.
A shining example
I have a dear friend of thirty eight years in Darius Botha. He and his wife lost two of their children to cancer and now he suffers the illness himself. But if you ever want to meet someone who lives lightly you should meet Darius … and you will meet a man of faith as well. As much as he courageously stand up to the challenge of his illness with his spirit high, I know he will let go graciously when the time comes.
‘Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience’ – Danaan Parry (Warriors of the heart)
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing, and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swing towards me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar to move to the new one.
Every time it happens to me, I hope that I won’t have to grab the new bar. But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurdle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurdles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policies, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone; the future is not yet here.” It’s called transition. I have come to believe that is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.
Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg