One of my favorite sermon illustrations that I have ever done was on a Sunday morning in February. I had an old suitcase on the platform with me. When I picked it up, it was obvious that it was heavier than I could comfortably carry—at least for any extended period of time. I reached the part in my sermon where I opened my suitcase to reveal what was inside. Bricks. Inside were bricks with duck tape and words written on them with a black Sharpie. They symbolized the things that we too often carry around with us. We carry our sins with us. Those same sins that we feel as though we must constantly be repenting for because we never truly feel forgiven. We carry them around with us, and they are weighing us down.
It weighs us down. You know what it is like when you get completely drenched even though you are still fully clothed? It is really awkward to walk around like that because it feels like your clothes weigh at least twenty pounds.
It is funny how a message that I first preached in 2008 (I’m too young to feel this old) is still so relevant to me and my life. You’d think that eventually I would learn, that eventually I would have it figured out about how I shouldn’t hold onto things that weigh me down. But I do. We all do. That’s part of what it means to be entirely sanctified. It doesn’t mean that we have it all figured out. It means that we are giving our lives wholly over to the Lordship of Christ for the filling of the Spirit. It is a constant giving over. Each time one of these things attaches itself to us like a leech, sucking the life out of us, each time we pick something back up, we must give it over to the Lordship of Christ. It is crisis and process. We must continually let go of the things we long to hold onto.
I have talked about it before. It seems letting go is something that I talk about frequently. I recently heard a quote about how we preach most what we need to hear the most, or something like that. And it is true. I probably talk about it so much because it is something that I need to hear over and over.
For example, I was sitting in church this past Sunday and my friend who I had a falling out with sat beside me, but purposely left an empty chair between us. It was just an empty chair, but in my mind that empty chair was saying the same things the silence has been saying for too long. It was a symbol of bitterness and hostility. I was standing there unable to fully give God my praise because I was trying to pick up that bitterness once again. I had to be reminded that as soon as I starting picking it up again, I have to let it go. I had to give it up to God.
One of my favorite songs (by Audrey Assad) includes these lyrics: “If everything is Yours, God, I’m letting it go. It was never mine to hold.” We lit lanterns while we were in Thailand on New Year’s Eve and let them go. As they floated into the sky and we welcomed in the New Year, we were also letting go of the old year and of the old feelings and toxic emotions. I know that I will try to pick them back up and carry them around, but I also know that they only weigh me down. So, I will let it go because it was never mine to hold.