As God grants us good things in life, we are so easily tempted to take hold of them and fight to the death to keep them. Forgetting that we have not earned nor deserved those good things, we become attached to them, addicted to them. So much of our consumerist culture fuels this tendency; what I’ve got I’ve earned and therefore it is only right and natural that I should always get to keep it.
But as dangerous as our tendencies towards hoarding possessions and clogging up our lives with useless junk can be, I would suggest that an equally damaging (and potentially more ruinous to the soul) problem is our addiction and attachment to other people and the friendships and relationships we develop in life. In the case of loved ones and friends, we are so-often consumed by what I would characterize as a fear of death. We are afraid to face loss of relationship, or even to face the literal death of a loved one, and our response is so quickly to fight with every emotional fiber we have to hold on to that person. I know from my own experience as I’ve seen various friendships fall away over the years that my immediate tendency is to try and control a situation, to turn it into something I can do instead of learning to hold loosely to all things.
The irony in this is that we all want to experience abundant life but our perspective of abundance is obscured, so in order to protect what we see as rightfully our abundance, we squelch it, and we miss out on the freedom that comes with letting go.
Scripture calls us to live in a similar tension; we don’t fear death because Christ has conquered the grave, yet God affirms life in every aspect of God’s character, so we work hard for the liberation of life from the chains of death, not only after the grave but in the here and now. So while we ought to be people for whom literal, physical death (and other kinds) doesn’t inspire fear, we are perfectly right to mourn death around us.
The quirky movie Harold and Maude is a perfect illustration of this. Harold lives in a world of death, though he has unlimited access to anything money can buy. He performs fake suicides because death is the only thing he thinks he can relate to. And then he meets Maude, an 80 year-old woman who exudes beauty and life. She teaches him to see the uniqueness and wonder around him, to experience life fully. Maude is a constant reminder to both treasure life and let go. We get the idea that it was her experience in a Nazi imprisonment camp that taught her this truth, as her husband was killed.
Well, if some people get upset because they feel they have a hold on some things, I’m merely acting as a gentle reminder: here today, gone tomorrow, so don’t get attached to things.
But it isn’t until the very end of the movie that Harold begins to understand how difficult this task of keeping a loose grip on the world is. As he deals with tragedy and feels the temptation to give in to death, (A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life, says Maude), he finally is able to understand what it could look like to let go.
Letting go means giving up control, falling freely into the arms of a Creator who takes care of the grass of the field, who offers abundant life and the freedom from worry. In order to accept this abundant life, we must die to our sense of control and loosen our hold on those around us, allowing us to let go of everything but God.