Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blessing and Letting Go, Part III & End of In the Midst of Chaos

As one more school year winds to a close and another summer begins, we look forward to having fun in the sun, spending more time together as a family, feeling a bit more carefree, maybe even going on vacation. But blink and summer will be at an end and a new school year will start; our children will be in the next grade up or maybe just starting school for the first time; some may have children taking off for college; some may be expecting another addition to their family. All of these examples are lessons in blessing and letting go – even the act of giving birth is essentially letting go of our newest child as they enter the world separate from our bodies’ protection for the first time.

A paragraph from this last chapter makes particular note of the author’s goal in writing about practices of faith and specifically about the practice of blessing, and I’d like to include it here:

One big problem with any book on spirituality is that there is hardly any way to read along and not feel as if you were just assigned one more thing to do. Almost invariably, we see the advice as a blueprint for what we must do to earn our way into the spiritual elite, the inner circle of spirituality of those who are calm and prayerful. In this chapter, I would like to make one more attempt to dispel this myth.

The phrase “in the midst of chaos” itself suggests that our efforts to practice our faith usually take place amid conditions we don’t really control. Parenting constantly brings us to relinquishment, of self and ideals and dreams, of the other person, the infant, soon to be a child, soon to be an older child, soon to be a youth, soon to be a young adult. Just when I thought I had it down in those early weeks and months of parenting, my child would up and change. Damn. (A far cry from “God bless it,” I’m afraid.) Of course, those early changes were just the beginning.

We parents are always coming up against our limits – limits that come in all shapes and sizes. The first and often hidden step in the practice of blessing and letting go is to recognize this.

The whole of this book has been to show us the small but significant things we can do and probably already do in our daily life in practicing our faith as parents. It’s an encouragement in knowing that just by playing with our kids, reading to them, conversing with them, pondering on them, blessing them and taking the ordinary moments of daily life with them and making them sacred, we are practicing our Christian faith. …care of children as a spiritual practice demands that we ask how parenthood and the shape of family life make us and our children better persons in the world as a whole. [Letting go is a practice which] reminds us that we are not finally in control, that we are limited and finite. Ultimately, we are called to release our children in lament and joy. We turn them over to others and the rest of the world in trust, and we give them back to God in love.

We adopt specific faith practices for God’s sake and in response to God’s love, and not for the “sake of a preferred way of life,” as theologian Miroslav Volf puts it. We adopt them because they connect us, enliven us, and move us to experience God.

I hope this book and specifically this series of posts has been a blessing to you and has allowed you to be encouraged in your walk as a parent and as a child of God. None of these practices would come so naturally without the Holy Spirit working in us, but loving our children is natural, and that love gives us a small glimpse into the love our Father has for us. God bless!


All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blessing and Letting Go, Part II

Our children will eventually leave us and after the many years of mutual blessings imparted and received, the next step is much tougher – blessing their departure. Many good and wonderful parents who have blessed their children’s comings and goings throughout their childhood (and are used to their children always coming back), falter at this step. But letting go of them is crucial to their maturity as well as ours. Letting go of children goes against the grain of human self-preservation. It is hard because we have to let go of part of ourselves – a very precious part of ourselves, at that – that we have incorporated into ourselves in loving the other. Letting go requires trust that we - and they - are preserved and upheld by a force greater than our own efforts.

We have all heard versions of the ancient Chinese proverb, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was blah, blah, blah…” But there is truth in this saying when it comes to parenting and those apron strings we have such a good grip on right now. Parents must find the balance of hopeful care somewhere between neglect and overbearing control, both of which interfere with a child’s growth.

This ancient Chinese proverb articulates a powerful truth about the importance of letting go. It had a profound effect on me when I first heard it, and it has guided me in both my private and professional life ever since. I have often quoted it as an excellent model for parenthood, which is a gradual, wonderful - and sometimes painful - process of letting go. It begins with the cutting of the umbilical cord and ends when you hand over the keys of your car. They will fly the nest, but if you freely and willingly let them go then they will always come back.”1

The author includes a poem by Mary Oliver called “In Blackwater Woods.” I’d like to include the ending here:

Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the times comes to let it go,
to let it go.

When the time comes for my children to leave my nest, I’m hoping God will give me the wisdom, strength and maturity to let them go. And before I end up like a 4-year-old weeping over the severed apron strings (but being on the other side this time – after all, those strings come from my apron!), I can take comfort in the promises given by God:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (I Peter 1:3-6)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (Luke 6:21)


1. Quote by Alison Willcocks found at

All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

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