Learning to Let Go(d)
This article is a continuation from my first blog post, ‘My Awakening to Really Living’.
When I first saw the image of the four coloured leaves (red – black – maroon – green), chosen by the editor to accompany my previous post, I immediately received the interpretation of it in relation to the article. I felt that it represented the love of God and the blood of Christ (red) flowing into my hardened heart (black). As my heart receives from God, it begins to revive and show signs of life (maroon). And from it springs life and growth! (green) The cemented background in that picture represented my life at that time – rough, hard, cold and lifeless, laid bare before God. But now as I continue to experience God’s hand in my journey to becoming fully alive, I am learning to let God work that growth in me. This was especially evident during a month earlier this year when I took a break from work.
I used to think that “Let go, Let God” is such a cliché. I have always been taught to have a backup plan for a backup plan. Hence, I felt the need to be in control. But the more I want to be in control, the more things are slipping out of my control. And lots of anxiety creeps in too.
With all those years of control, I was exhausted. God prompted me to finally apply for a much-needed break from work. I felt the need to retreat so that I can move forward again. I was so thankful that my request for a one-month leave was approved. More than that, I was so grateful and blessed that God provided through someone a place to live for that one month, away from my usual living arrangement.
During the first week, it felt strange to have so much unplanned time on hand. I decided to go for a stroll around the neighbourhood to explore. Going for a stroll was never on my mind. As I strolled around the neighbourhood mindlessly and just looked at things around me, I began to feel a wave of emotions. Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I saw situations around me that reminded me of my past experiences. I suppose that in those moments of stillness and observation, I allowed my emotions to have a chance to surface. I didn’t have a plan, but God had a plan for me.
Gradually, as I became more aware of myself, I realised that I had been easily triggered by people and circumstances around me. One day, I had a revelation with this mental image of magnetic hooks all over my body. These hooks were grown from my past hurts, and they now latch onto present events or people when connected to those experiences.
By acknowledging and intentionally separating the past from the present, I learnt to unhook the associations that had previously set me off.
I was able to move on, allow myself to see the reality of the present, and disengage from the negative memories of the past. I used to be triggered by a particular word that one of my colleagues frequently used. Now months later, I begin to notice myself being less triggered and we are eventually working well together. I am still in the process of ‘unhooking’ other triggers. As I begin to let go of my past, I am learning to let God’s love and grace fill the spaces that I have created.
Rooms & Spaces
Having a room of my own for that one month was so exciting! I found joy in the unpacking and arranging of things. There was something so magical about having my own space. I often found myself opening the 2 doors of the cupboard, looking at my things laid there and finding myself smiling. I realised that it was not about the physical items or the physical space, but a deeper sense of belonging and identity of myself.
Seeing my things having a space to belong made me feel that I too have a space where I belong.
This helped me realise my struggle with my sense of identity and rooting it in the wrong place. As I let go of my sense of identity in the wrong place, I am learning to let God show me who I really am, created in his image.
Another room I frequently found myself in was the dining room, where I looked at the family photos around me, particularly one that had been taken at the studio. I was reminded of a year when I myself had been planning to bring my family for a family photo shoot, but it did not happen. As I choose to let go of my pain, I am learning to let God heal and rekindle the desire to restore those broken relationships.
Walks & Jogs
One afternoon, during that one-month break, while I went for a walk at the park, somehow the posture of joggers caught my attention. While most joggers jogged with an upright posture, there were some who jogged with occasional unstable steps. I could tell that they were really tired, and I thought they were going to stop soon. However, they continued! 10 more steps, 20 more steps and on and on and on. The words 'discipline' and 'perseverance' came to mind, and I felt that these were specific words of encouragement for me in this season.
On another night, I went for a jog and reached the part of the park that is darker. Initially, I was hesitant but decided to continue, focusing on the nearest lamp post and then the next one.
Just at that moment, there was a breeze. I felt like the Holy Spirit was accompanying me and gently pushing me on.
It was such a multisensorial moment of reminder to step out of my comfort zone and face my hesitation by breaking down the challenge into manageable steps, knowing that the Holy Spirit is with me and God is leading the way. In the words of Psalm 119:105, I was also reminded to let go of my fears and let God be “a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
On one of the weekends during that month, I also went to the Botanic Garden on a spontaneous trip after church. While walking around, I came across a long flight of stairs. I was curious where it might lead me so I went up to take a look. To my disappointment, there was nothing that interested me. As I turned around and was about to head down, at the corner of my eye, I saw a tree with support poles. “How did these people know how to care for each of the trees here”, I thought. This is as mysterious as how God takes care of each of us! As I let go of the busyness in my mind, I am learning to let God speak to me as I slow down and savour nature around me. It has also helped me know who God is to me in a tangible way.
Since that one month break where I learnt to ‘let God’, day by day, I have noticed myself slowing down both externally and internally. This has helped me to connect and be present in the moment and allowed space for a deeper self-reflection. My realisations have also helped me embrace myself, including my past experiences or even areas that I did not like about myself.
Recently while walking home, I saw rows of trees being pruned. Previously, the words that came to mind would probably be ‘sad’, ‘dying’, ‘bare’, ‘vulnerable’. But at that point, the word that came to mind was ‘growth’. I didn’t know much about pruning so I googled to find out more about it. I learnt that pruning is the process of removing dead, diseased or damaged branches, as well as shaping and thinning out the plant. Although the tree looks ’bare’, it is a much-needed process to promote healthy growth and for it to thrive.
For the first time, I am beginning to understand what it truly means to let go and let God.
It is only when I am able to let go of something that I am able to let God fill me with something new.
This is such a transformative process which allows new possibilities and growth. If not, I am simply trapped in a negative reinforcement loop. Of course, it is hard and takes lots of courage to do so. And I am still learning to let go…
Sometimes taking a step back is much needed in order to move forward and grow. Sometimes pruning is needed to let go of certain aspects in our lives that no longer serve us. In these moments of stepping back and pruning, it may look like a loss, but it is a much needed process to create spaces for new opportunities, experiences and growth. May you find the courage and strength within you to let go and let God.