Saturday, August 17, 2019

Letting Go, Burning the Ships, & Walking Away

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13-14
(KJV)

I find it so interesting that two of the most powerful (in my opinion, but then again, it is ALL powerful!) messages conveyed in the Word of God consist of a total of a mere five words and are tied for being the first and second shortest verses in the whole Bible.

"Jesus wept."  John 11:35
and
"Remember Lot's wife."  Luke 17:32

(Any ideas on what the two-word and three-word verses are that they are tied with?  In case you don't know, I'll reveal the answer at the very end of this post. 😉)

Knowing Jesus felt such deep compassion for His friends when He saw them weeping that He was actually moved to tears speaks untold volumes about His character.  Knowing "Jesus wept" profoundly reveals the true character of God because "God is love," (I John 4:16) and Jesus is God.

I absolutely love the two-word verse, "Jesus wept," but today I want to focus on the three-word verse, "Remember Lot's wife" because God has so often brought it to mind lately.  It seems to stay in my mind nearly all the time, as my family and I continue to minimize, downsize, simplify, and shed toxins from our lives.  SO often over the course of our minimizing journey that began in 2015 and continues to this day, I have been tempted to "look back," and the Lord has reminded me to stop and remember Lot's wife.  

We all know the story about how God called Lot and his wife and two daughters out of Sodom and Gomorrah right before He sent fire and brimstone from Heaven to destroy both cities.  The angels could not execute the plan of eradication until after Lot and his family were safe.  They were to flee quickly, and they were plainly instructed to NOT look back.  

Maybe I am looking at it all wrong, and God please forgive me if I am, but I have always felt sorry for Lot's wife.  Sadly, I think I can relate to her need to look back more than I should be able to.  I have a very strong tendency to look back.  Even in the smaller things, like when Kevin, Zach, and I have enjoyed a meal in a restaurant, I always feel this need to look back and stare longingly for just a moment at the now-empty booth where we made such happy memories only a few moments before.  I think it is some sort of hang-up and probably has a clinical name, but it is what it is. 😏

Having moved approximately 47 times (no joke) while growing up, I have more than likely done more than my fair share of looking back.  Wishing for the places we used to live, wanting things to stay the same, dealing with my innate strong aversion to change, and being overly sentimental in nature, looking back is a constant temptation for me.  

When the Lord calls us out of a situation that is detrimental to us, the enemy would like nothing better than to persuade us to be drawn right back in to the misery.  For proof, just think about the Israelites.  They were tormented beyond what they could withstand, and God graciously heard their cries and miraculously delivered them from extreme, debilitating bondage to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  But, soon after the deliverance and at the first sign of adversity, they were tempted to go right back to the misery.  Somehow, in their minds, going back to the anguish was better because it was familiar.

It is very easy to forget the grief we have been liberated from when faced with fear of a new, unknown, unfamiliar challenge.  Looking backward seems like the easiest, most comfortable option.  But, the thing is, God never leads backward.  He is an ever forward-looking God who knows that if we look back, we will remain tethered to the past and will never walk forward into the things He has ahead for us.  

It is hard to let go of the past.  There are so many parts of it that possess the potential to hold us prisoner.  When God called Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrah and told him and his family not to look back, they were being asked to walk away from everything familiar and known to them.  Though the cities had become exceedingly wicked, still, it was home.  I can completely understand why Lot's wife felt the need to turn around and look back, but in doing so, she rendered herself incapable of ever taking another step forward.  She ended up losing her life and becoming immortalized in the form of a pillar of salt to serve as a sobering reminder to every one who would come after her, and the lesson was so profound, our Lord spoke of her all those years later.

We can't relive yesterday.  We can't go back and do anything over.  We are where we are, at this season of time and life, and nothing that has happened heretofore can be reversed.  To try to keep holding on to yesterday and all it contained is a complete waste of energy.  Looking back and wishing for what used to be or what might have been is counter-productive to enjoying life that is right in front of us.

Today, I had to walk away from some things that hurt so much, I cried.  I cried, but the tears didn't stop me from doing what I knew I had to do.  I've had many such moments over the past four years since God began dealing with us to begin our minimizing journey.  I have written a lot more about it over at our other blog, Biblical Minimalism.  You can read there about how God has led us to let go and walk away from so much that was dear to our hearts in pursuit of a higher call and a more intimate walk with Jesus.    

At first, our minimizing was mostly of a physical-possession nature, but as time has passed, God has steadily maximized our minimizing to encompass the entirety of our lives.  In a post called "The Whole-Person Pie," I talk about how Biblical Minimalism encompasses the whole person comprised of eight different parts.  



Each time God asks us to let go and breaks chains and releases us from bondage, it is a painful process.  It is not an easy task to let go of the familiar, but sometimes familiar is no longer a good place to be.  God sometimes has to allow things to reach a certain height of misery before we realize that a change needs to be made.  When we recognize that need, it takes courage to let go, burn the ship, walk away, and never look back.

After I began writing this post, Zach read the following story told by Luke Smallbone of "For King and Country" concerning the inspiration and story behind this, one of my new favorite songs.


"I read a story about an explorer going to a new land. When he arrived on the shore, he calls everybody off of the ships and said, 'Hey let's go explore this land and see what there is to be seen,'" Luke explains. "All the men were terrified of going into the unknown and he realized that even though those boats were grimy, stinky, and small, they wanted to stay on the boats because it was familiar. The next day he calls them out again and when all the sailors were on land, he gives the command to burn the ships because he said, 'We're not going to retreat. We're going to move forward in our lives."
Luke Smallbone - (read entire interview here)

When God has broken chains of addiction or delivered us out of a bondage situation or relationship, it is never His intention we ever return to such, and the reason it is important to "burn the ship" is because it removes not only the temptation, but the possibility, of ever trying to.

Hebrews 12:1,2 has become our life mission.  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

The chapter preceding Hebrews 12 is referred to as "The Faith Chapter" or "The Hall of Faith."  It tells of flawed, but Godly people who became stalwart heroes of the faith like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and many others who fought the good fight of faith without looking back, were valiant warriors for righteousness in their generation, and in the first verse of chapter 12, they are referred to as "a great cloud of witnesses."  I think of them often, and I realize that each one of them were called upon to let go of the familiar and to step out into an audacious, daring, untested realm of faith in order to accomplish God's call upon their lives.  They had to lay aside every weight, put everything they had on the line, and lighten their load to successfully run the race God laid out before them.  When God called Abraham to leave his comfort zone, he didn't even know where he was going.  He just knew he was being asked to go.  He had no predecessor to look back upon and see a victorious outcome.  He had to walk away and not look back with nothing to hold on to except the call of God.  Each one of the life stories mentioned is remarkable and worthy of deep study and consideration.  All glory to God, I not only have them as examples, but God has endowed me with a deep spiritual heritage of my own.  My dear Papaw, who others referred to as "the walking King James," my grandma "Mimmie," my own dear parents, and others have greatly influenced my life by the way they followed Jesus with their whole hearts.  Most of all, we can all look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  It is He who has called us to follow Him, and He is the one I most long to please.

As I wrestle with letting go, burning ships, and walking away from what is besetting me and weighing me down, I often hear His still, small voice.  After another favorite song below, I am sharing some of the things He has been teaching me and reminding me about HIS own earthly journey, in hopes they will help you, too, as you seek a closer walk with Him and struggle with letting go of all that holds you back.

Walking Away - Unspoken

1.  Jesus had to walk away from His old life.  At 30 years of age, He had to let go of whatever He owned or held dear to walk the lonely path of ministry, self-denial, giving and pouring His life into the lives of others, and three years later, walking the anguished steps of the Via Dolorosa that led Him to the cross.  Surely He owned things, He felt deep love and affection for people in His life, and He felt twinges of sadness over a yearning for home and what used to be.  How do I know this?  Because He was tested in every point that we are tested, (Hebrews 4:15), but He never disobeyed His Father's will, and no matter how difficult it was, He did the right thing always.  I don't even want to think about the hopelessness that would have enveloped mankind if Jesus had looked back!

2.  Jesus had to travel light.  He let go and walked away from every hindering element.  He laid aside every weight that would so easily beset Him and loved nothing more than He loved His Father.

3.  Jesus had to shed toxic relationships and move on to those who would accept Him.  When Jesus returned to His very own hometown, the people there verbally abused Him and thought He was crazy.  Their hatred for Him was so intense, they wanted to kill Him!  Talk about toxic!  They "rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong."  Luke 4:29  No wonder He said, "A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."  (Mark 6:4) and "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."  (Matthew 10:34-36)  He had to make the tough decision to shed relationships with those who would deter Him from His purpose and walk away from His past and move on to a people who would receive and accept Him and His word and who would recognize who He was, what His true gifts were, and who would appreciate and honor Him.  "But He passing through the midst of them went His way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power."  Luke 4:30-32

4.  Everything we lay down, let go of, and walk away from for His sake and the sake of the Gospel will bring hundredfold blessings - not only in Heaven, but in this life, also.  "And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."  Mark 10:29-30

As you have read this post, has the Lord brought anything to your mind that you may need to let go of?  Any ships that need to be burned?  Any situation, possession, or relationship that you need to walk away from?

Today is a new day.  A fresh start.  A wonderful opportunity to purge what is toxic.  A chance to lay aside everything that is unlike Jesus and that keeps us from being like Him.

I pray you find the courage to follow Him with your whole, undivided heart.

Did you happen to think of those two verses I spoke about at the beginning?
The answer for the two-word verse is "Rejoice evermore."  I Thessalonians 5:16, and the answer for the three-word verse is "Pray without ceasing."  I Thessalonians 5:17.

21 comments:

  1. Don't look back. Such powerful words. I often find myself looking back. At earlier years in our marriage when our children were small. When my health was better. When my parents were alive. All were wonderful, wonderful times. But, I do know that God has more in store for me. I want to hold on to the familiar. And that's not all bad. Not everyone is the adventurous sort. Certainly not me. There isn't anything wrong with liking the familiar. At least I don't think there is. Unless...unless you put the familiar before God's plans for you. Maybe He's not calling me to move on to the unfamiliar, but to serve Him where I am. This is a challenging subject for sure. I struggle with it daily.
    Thank you for sharing with us Cheryl and being willing to be so honest with those of us who read your blog. Thank you also for your prayers for my headaches. They are not any better and I'm waiting to hear about an MRI. It's very hard to schedule one because of my pacemaker. They have to have a cardiologist and a cardiac nurse in the room with me the entire time because they shut the pacemaker off during the MRI. I'm praying the headaches go away before it's scheduled.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. I am sure you do look back, sweet friend. I can relate to that so very much. It is okay to hold on to the familiar until the dear Lord says it is time to let go. Familiar can become a well-carved rut that thwarts our progress and keeps us stuck, and I think our fear of the unknown can paralyze to the point of rendering us incapable of letting go. I think a great lesson for all of us can be found in the study of the children of Israel and how they were to move forward 2000 cubits behind the ark. When the ark moved, they were to move and stay in that proximity. When it rested, they were to rest - they were to always follow the ark lock-step.
      Also, when they heard a rustling in the mulberry trees, they were to let go and move forward. George Mueller said, God not only orders our steps, He orders our stops. This journey of following Jesus is an adventure, and we are all at different points and being led in a uniquely particular way. The main thing is that we individually listen to His voice and are obedient to what He is leading us to do at all times and that we don't shut out what He wants us to do because we don't want to leave our comfort zone. It certainly is a daily struggle for us all. I guess that is why Jesus told us to "take up our cross daily" and Paul said, "I die daily." Every day is a new battle between the flesh and the Spirit; our will and God's will and bringing our will into alignment with His always. I am continuing to pray for your headaches and trust Jesus to heal them and also to work out these difficulties concerning the pacemaker and MRI. That surely presents an extra challenge, and I am so sorry you are going through all of this. I am looking to hear a victory report from you soon! Sending much love your way today!

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  2. Dearest Cheryl...
    My heart was greatly encouraged through this post. Thank you for sharing what the Lord has been teaching you. This week we moved yet again and we have embarked upon a whole new season of life. Some days all the change and instability threatens to overwhelm, but I know we serve a mighty God who is constantly leading and guiding and working everything together for our good.
    Know I think of you so often. I look forward to being able to settle and be able to write to you once again when we eventually have internet at the house!
    Love in Christ, Kelly-Anne

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    1. Oh, how grateful I am that you found encouragement here, sweet friend! I think of you so often, too, and it will be wonderful to hear from you again when you are settled and online. Oh, how I can relate to your feelings and situation! I think most of our struggles come from not wanting to let go of what used to be as God continually moves us forward and opens newness in our lives. If we were ever able to fully embrace that life is NOT going to stay the same and if we could accept the consistency of change, we would be less likely to "settle in" and become comfortable. Another thing God is teaching me is that nothing in this life is permanent. However permanent we want a GOOD thing or a GREAT situation to be, change is bound to come, at some point. Even the good and great become stagnant after a period of time and familiarity absolutely breeds contempt. Another thing that makes it so difficult is that our tunnel vision only allows us to see what is happening now, not what is out in front of us. We don't see the amazing things God has ahead for us because we keep looking back and wishing for what used to be. If we could actually envision the good things ahead, we would press forward with more enthusiasm and be more apt to let go of what we just walked away from. It is a lifetime of learning that we each must walk individually, and the blessed consolation is that we do not walk alone or unguided. We have the precious Holy Spirit to lead and ordain our steps and the order of our steps. Keep encouraged, sweet friend, and know that I am praying for you and sending much love to you across the miles! Write when you can and let me know how you are doing. :)

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  3. The answers you gave here, Cheryl, are miraculously right there on my new mouse pad!!!!! Yes, God does not want us to look back, but to move forward with Him, to follow His lead. Like you, I have my nostalgic moments, but I try to keep them fleeting thoughts, and return my focus to the here and now. We can't live a full life in the moment unless we shed the past. Beautiful reflection, my friend.
    Blessings!

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    1. Isn't that something? I love your pretty new mouse pad! Keeping them fleeting thoughts - there is SO much wisdom in that! I love the thoughts you added here and thank you ever so much for your kind, encouraging words. May the Lord bless you richly today!

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  4. What powerful, and yes, short verses you’ve shared, dear Cheryl. I love the answers at the end! Yes, I’m like you, and feel sorry for Lot’s wife. Don’t we all want to look back? The burning ships, however, make such sense. I have to admit, that I’ve always felt sorry for the one faithful brother, in the prodigal son story, and even understand Martha in the Mary and Martha story. Maybe I just have compassion for them? Anyway, I’m just sharing with you, some of the things that were in my heart.
    Thank you for your insightful messages that you share from your own heart, and your honesty in your own true feelings. I think, as moms, we don’t tend to hold on to past grievances, but always tend to look to the future for HOPE and FAITH. Love and blessings to you, my friend.
    P. S. I can’t believe that you moved 47 times...oh my goodness!

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    1. Oh, you are SO right! I feel sorry for that faithful brother, too, and also understand Martha. Yes, as Moms, we do forgive easily, don't we? I think the older we get, the more we realize how futile and what a waste of time and energy it is to hold grudges. I know - can you imagine moving that many times? I just remember that my sweet Dad and I sat and wrote them down one day, and that is what we came up with! We could laugh about it later, but whew, it was rough going through it all those years. Changing schools was the worst part. Probably why I am so messed up today and hate change so much! LOL! I send much love and many blessings back to you, sweet friend, and I am continuing to pray for you and Connor and your daughter. :)

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  5. Hi Cheryl, You do it again and again..Thanks for all the Godly good advice you send to so many..God give Us ears to hear and courage to walk the right direction in our daily lives.Little do we know what tomorrow holds but thank God we know who holds all our tomorrows..I pray each step forward you all take will be easier and easier and that at the end you will know it was worth it all the trip life took you on.I NEED your prayers daily and know love and prayers will follow your all's every step forward you go..My heart reaches out to many on this road of life.May you all find all the pit holes will be filled with God's amazing love..Happy travels...Love Loads,Elaine

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    1. You will never know how much your precious comments and kind words bless and encourage me, dear friend. I want you to know that I am praying for you and trusting God to see you through all you have to face every day. Even though your load is so heavy, it will never be too heavy for our Lord to carry. Keep encouraged and looking to Jesus and know that you are so loved and appreciated.

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  6. Wow, Cheryl this goes right along with what I just read on your other blog. I must need a strong reminder from God to let go. I had a forty year friendship that ended five years ago and I have had the hardest time letting it go. It was my best friend, and she walked away from our friendship because we disagreed. I think I am over the hurt and then something triggers my emotions. I know God heals and binds up our broken hearts. Thank you sweet friend, I will be rereading this.

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    1. Oh, sweet friend! I know how difficult that can be. I am SO sorry you have had to suffer such pain and heartache. It is truly a form of grief to lose a relationship, and the stages are the same as losing someone to death. Especially when it was such a long-term, close relationship. It is so normal to feel like you have walked through every stage, only to find yourself back walking through one or more of them all over again, anew and afresh. My heart goes out to you, and I trust the Lord will heal the brokenness and deep hurt and fill the void with His great love and the love of so many others. You are such a dear blessing to me, and I am so thankful you shared this. Much love and many hugs to you!

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  7. Letting go, not looking back are so hard. I struggle with this everyday because I do miss the familiar; my Parents, sister and when my children were young. Since we moved to Colorado I am really focusing on the strength to let go and let God take me where He sees fit. Thank you for sharing your Faith-fullness and love of Christ with us dear one.
    Jemma

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    1. Oh, sweet Jemma, I am sure it is hard having moved so far away and missing those days. I am so proud of you for letting God take you where He sees fit. That is exactly what my little family and I have talked a lot about lately. We are learning to see life as an adventure with God being our tour guide. It feels wonderful to take our hands off our lives and leave the reins in HIS capable hands and allow Him to have the responsibility of leading. I don't want control anymore. I feel so liberated knowing HE is taking care of us and directing our course wherever HE wants it to be. What relief it brings to not feel that weight anymore! So thankful to visit with you today, sweet friend. I am so thankful you stopped by and so appreciate your comments!

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  8. Oh my! YES....NOT looking back is hard in any situation. I think if most were honest they would say they too have struggled as I have. Dear Cheryl, your message with this post has blessed my heart and laced with God's precious Word. These words that you have written; "We can't relive yesterday. We can't go back and do anything over. We are where we are, at this season of time and life, and nothing that has happened heretofore can be reversed. To try to keep holding on to yesterday and all it contained is a complete waste of energy. Looking back and wishing for what used to be or what might have been is counter-productive to enjoying life that is right in front of us" has surely ministered to me today. I just love it that you are so very real and I love your precious sweet spirit. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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    1. Amen, sweet sister! I do believe we all struggle with it. I did an interview one time and asked the woman about her regrets in life. She curtly replied, "No regrets." I thought, "Seriously?" I find it hard to believe that a fallible human being could flitter through life and now be middle-aged without having one thing they regret or are tempted to look back to! I think it is a total lack of humility to not acknowledge our own struggles and issues. I love your precious, sweet spirit, too, dear friend. Sending hugs and many blessings back to you today!

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  9. Girl...you hit this head on!
    Wow! Such a powerful and helpful posting for sure.
    I appreciate the way you presented Lots wife and it was a good reminder for myself in some areas of my life.
    I'm constantly reminding myself when I want to look back that what I'm looking and longing for was another chapter of my life that has been closed and I'm in a new chapter with God directing my every step and I must except and move forward with it.
    After reading this on Lots wife it makes clear sense that God does NOT want us looking back and the warnings we find in Scripture need to be heeded.
    Oh I appreciated this!!

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us and allowing God to use you so that we, your readers, may find great encouragement from one sister in Christ to another.
    God bless you and keep you and continue to guide your every step in the direction He is taking you.

    Much Love to you~

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    1. Dear, sweet friend! Your precious comment meant the world to me today! I so appreciate you, your precious friendship, unfailing prayers, and kind words. I send much love back to you today! Praying for you!

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  10. Guilty here as well of looking back from time to time. I think looking can be a bad or a good thing. SOmetimes we look back as we remember where we came from and circumstances that brought us to where we are today...which made us WHO we are today. But living in regret is never a good thing. Thank God that guides our steps! Wonderful post!

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    1. Yes, there is a healthy looking back where we remember His wonders and all He has done. So very true! Thank you for your visit and kind words, Debby!

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  11. Hi Sweet Friend, There is so much wisdom in this blog post! Oh how the Lord has taught you through this minimizing journey! And I can see how the person you are deep down is EXACTLY the person who can convey such lessons as you have so graciously shared here. Your life then and now has been weaved together to this season God has called you to, making you so in tune to His leading related to living life now and not in the past.

    I never thought about that how I too look back. I gaze out at the swings where Lexi had just been playing, but has left for the day. I especially do it with vacation homes, looking back one last time, thinking how I won't see this place again and all the memories that were shared here. And like you, I can relate to Lot's wife and empathize with what she must've been feeling. But the reality is, I should be more concerned with how God feels and what He desires from me, His precious child, who He died for that I could be with him for all eternity.

    Your words here are so edifying and such a blessing. Thank you for always faithfully sharing what is on your heart. Sending you much love.

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