taking the words of Jesus seriously

It’s that time of year again, time to send our kids back to school. And though there’s a certain level of relief involved…yay, we don’t have to take a vote on what to eat for lunch today, yay, I don’t have to worry if your brain is shriveling up from too much TV, etc. etc.…it also fills me with sadness. And this great big ugly hairball of angst about letting my children go.


Because let’s be honest: letting go blows.


I know, I know what all the spiritual gurus say… “Just let go, blah blah blah and all will be well, etc. etc.” And that may be true, but I’m still very angry about it–angry that so much of life is about letting go. If I were in charge of anything, this would not be true.


In fact, I’m thinking of starting my own country called Lenora Land where no one will have to let go of anything ever. Possibly I’ll even make it illegal. (The only drawback being that if I do, most likely a whole illegal letting go culture and letting go cartel and possibly even letting go wars will develop there. Things could get ugly fast.)


I’ve had to let go of my kids again this past week. My husband and I took Hannah back to college in Nashville, and put Zoe on a plane to a study abroad semester in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. And yes, I’m so happy that they can do these things, go to college, travel the world — there are so many kids on this planet who are still not able to even go to school anywhere, ever. (This is why I support charitable organizations that help kids go to school and get the support they need to make school work for them, like DonorsChoose.org.)


But I really, really hate it too. Sending them off. Letting them go.


Partly I hate it because I’m going to miss them. Because I find them fascinating and interesting and funny and not only good company, but good people.


I also hate letting them go, frankly, because when they are so far away, I am forced to let go of the illusion that I can take care of them, keep them safe, that I can fix things for them.


And let’s face it. The world is a scary, dangerous place.


Where guns are so easy to get, it can literally take just minutes to purchase one, and where every other week, it seems, somebody walks into a movie theater or church or mall or school and starts shooting.


And, oh, not to mention, where rape and sexual assault is out of control on college campuses.


And, where in Guatemala, the country I just paid good money to send my daughter to, about a 100 people a week are murdered and 98% of the crimes go unprosecuted.


And you know as well as I do, the list could go on. And on. And on.


Someone asked me last week, in some pleasant office hallway conversation, “Oh was it hard to let them go?”


And I answered quite pleasantly, “Oh yeah, very hard.” And then I smiled. And we went on our merry ways. But inside, it is ripping my guts out.


Ripping. Me. Apart.


Because I can’t protect them. From any of it.


I never could really.


Every morning, since they started going to preschool, when I let them walk out the door, I would say this innocuous, cheery-sounding farewell: “Have a good day. I love you.” When really, what I always meant was: “Oh God, please help them find goodness and love today, please let them choose goodness and love today, please don’t let the assholes beat them up too much today, and please, please don’t let them die today…”


It was kind of a silent prayer, I guess.


And that’s what I’m doing again. Right now. Just feeling even more powerless than ever because they are farther away. And because here’s the thing: I don’t know what God really does. Or if God does anything.


One of my favorite jokes of all time is this: A guy falls off the side of a cliff but on the way down he manages to reach out and grab a thin branch. He’s hanging on the side of the cliff facing his certain doom, and but suddenly, miraculously, hears this voice calling out to him, that says, “Just let go, my son, and I will bear you up safely in my arms.” The guy looks around and says, “Is anybody else out there?”


I often think, if I was God, if I was in charge, I’d be more of a sure thing and I’d fix some of this shit. I’d stop the violence — the random gun violence caused by nothing more than how easy it is for anybody, any day, any time, to get a gun in this country. I’d stop the violence against women on our college campuses, and the violence that racism wreaks on our country on a daily basis, the violence caused by religious intolerance, poverty, drugs, human trafficking, exploitation, and injustice… everywhere.


Evidently God doesn’t reside in Lenora Land. Since if I were God, I’d swoop in and just clean up these messes. Seriously.


Because getting people to clean up after themselves…geez, that is not easy. That was one of the hardest things for me as a parent,  honestly. When the kids left their stuff all around, I knew, for their own good, for their healthy growth and friggin’ development, I was supposed to get them to clean it up, but it was torture…they were so slow, so resistant, so easily distracted, and I could do it so much better. So a lot of times, I did it myself. Mostly when we had people coming over and I wanted to look good.


I guess God isn’t worried about looking good.


So, sometimes, I wonder if perhaps, we are children God is trying to let go of.


God is letting go and trying to let us take responsibility for our own lives, our own messes here on this little blue globe spinning in space. And maybe every morning, God is saying to us, like I said to Hannah and Zoe: “Have a good day. I love you.”


And hoping against hope, that goodness and love are what all of us choose, every day, too.


So, today, I’m taking a deep breath and letting go of my kids, of being able to protect or manage or control or fix their lives.


But I’m holding on to what I can do, what I can choose. And hoping that will be enough, and believing, for the moment, anyway, that God is out there, and knows exactly how I feel.


Want to learn what Red Letter Christians are doing as kids across America go back to school? Here are a few links…


Romal Tune’s helping connect business leaders with neighborhood kids through Faith for Change.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is starting a Freedom Library for the Walltown Aspiring Youth.


Shane Claiborne and the folks at The Simple Way do a school supply giveaway in their neighborhood.


Bob Lenz is speaking in schools across America, helping students learn to see the value of every person through www.DignityPledge.com.
Our friends at Hope International are helping kids succeed in school by helping parents find good work.

Let us know what you’re doing where you are.


About The Author


Lenora blogs with honesty, humor and even, occasionally, a little wisdom, about trying to be more spiritual when you basically suck at it, on her Chicago-Tribune-hosted blog, Spiritual Suckitude. A regular contributor on RedLetterChristians.org, she also co-directs The Plural Guild with her husband Gary, a collective crafting music, visual art & liturgy for people who want to do justice, love mercy, and worship in new ways that welcome all. Because she rarely sleeps, she also writes lyrics for the band The Many, works a very full time job as creative director in a big Chicago ad agency, and helps with communications for the Wild Goose Festival. Her two 20-something daughters allow her to be friends with them on Facebook, as long as she doesn’t comment. She loves Jesus, chocolate and shoes. Though, unfortunately, not always in that order.

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