“We are prevented from following in another’s footsteps and are called to an incomparable association with Christ. The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original.”—Eugene Peterson, Run With the Horses
Most of us have experienced the following from one or both ends: Think about a time one of your children started kindergarten or college, or moved out. If you don’t have kids, think about your own experience leaving for school or leaving home, and how your parents reacted. How did that experience change the way you saw your child (or parent)?
Last Monday, we explored when it’s time for us to let go and let others help. Today, we’re going to look at a different kind of letting-go—that point when the person you’ve been pouring your life into is growing and ready to get on with what God has for him or her, and you have to step aside and let it happen.
It might not even require you seeing less of that person, but you know there’s been a shift in the relationship—and that you have to let that person take those next steps on his or her own. You know it’s a good thing, but it can still be painful to let someone you love and shared life with move forward without you.
And let’s not forget: It’s tough for the other person, too. It’s not easy to give up the safety of a spiritual friendship—the security of relying and depending upon someone you know is there for you—and venture into the unknown. And if you’re on that side of the equation, the good news is, you’re bringing the best part of the other person with you as you head forward.
Sometime you’ll be the one who initiates that change; sometimes it will be the other person. But when that time comes, hopefully you’ll both recognize it for what it is and take joy in it, despite the sadness that comes along with letting go. So let’s examine what that time of transition might look like, and how to make that time as joyful and beneficial as possible for both sides.
You’ve probably seen the climactic scene in the original Star Wars. If you need a reminder, or just need to see a good light-saber fight, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kpHK4YIwY4&feature=related. A big theme of the movie is Luke Skywalker’s apprenticeship to Ben “Obi Wan” Kenobi; this scene represents a major change to that relationship, as Obi Wan confronts a former apprentice gone terribly wrong, Darth Vader. Think about it:
• When have you had to step aside so someone else could take a positive step forward?
• Were you able to let go as peacefully as Obi Wan Kenobi did, or did it feel like you’d been repeatedly run through with a light sabre? And for that matter, did the other person scream “No!” (at least figuratively)?
So with that, let’s look at an example of Jesus letting others go—his own disciples. As you read, think again about Jesus’ own context here. He’s not only about to leave His disciples; He knows He’s hours away from being arrested, tortured and crucified. And He knows what His disciples are about to face as well. And yet… well, let’s see what “yet” looks like…
“I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you….
“But I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them.
“I did not tell you these things from the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking me, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead your hearts are filled with sadness because I have said these things to you. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you….
“Look, a time is coming – and has come – when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world.” (John 15:11-16, 16:4-7, 32-33, NET)
• What’s changing in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples here? Come up with as many things as you can.
• What’s Jesus’ attitude? Why?
• How does knowing that Jesus chose to free us—but that we’re still connected to Him no matter what—help us become who God’s created us to be?
• How does knowing this help us stay connected to those we might need to let go of?
“Simply making disciples is not enough; your disciples must also make disciples, or the commission has not been accomplished. In a very real sense, your final exam is not to be taken by you, but by another person.”—Neil Cole, Search & Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference
So, how can you encourage and celebrate with those who are ready to take their “final exam” and graduate—and how you’ve each made this moment possible? And how can you continue to “be there” as they move forward?