Loosening Your Grip

I hesitate to even say what I’m talking about this Sunday.  It’s a word with so much baggage. Instead I think I’ll give you a glimpse of what it looks like.  Take some time to read this beautiful passage from Henri Nouwen…

“The resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists. This image shows the tension, the desire to cling tightly to yourself, a greediness which betrays fear. The story about an old woman brought to a psychiatric center exemplifies this attitude. She was wild, swinging at everything in sight, and scaring everything away from her. But there was one small coin which she gripped in her fist and would not give up. In fact, it took two men to pry open that squeezed hand. It was as though she would lose her very self along with the coin. That was her fear.

The man invited to pray is asked to open his tightly clenched fists and to give up his last coin. But who wants to do that? A first prayer, therefore, is often a painful prayer, because you discover you don't want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren't proud of it. You find yourself saying, "That's just how it is with me. I would like it to be different, but it can't be now." Once you talk like that, you've already given up the belief that your life might be otherwise; you've already let the hope for a new life float by. Since you wouldn't dare to put a question mark behind a bit of your own experience with all its attachments, you have wrapped yourself up in the destiny of facts. You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small clammy coins which you don't want to surrender.

You still feel jealous of the fellow who is better paid than you are, you still want revenge on someone who doesn't respect you, you are still disappointed that you've received no letter, still angry because she didn't smile when you walked by. You live through it, you live along with it as though it didn't really bother you ... until the moment that you want to pray. Then everything returns: the bitterness, the hate, the jealousy, the disappointment and the desire for revenge. But these feelings are not just there; you clutch them in your hands as if they were treasures you didn't want to part with. You sit rummaging in all that old sourness as if you couldn't do without it, as if in giving it up, you would lose your very self.”

The word I will be using to describe our topic today is liable to send people running.  But it’s not so scary when you think about it along these lines.  It’s not something that will be forced on you.  It’s an invitation to let go and trust in God.