The Art of Releasing

I should have slept well last night. My body was tired, but my mind was running a marathon. I have known all this was coming, but somehow I feel surprised as reality sinks in. So much change. So much to be released. A father-in-law languishing, only half-lingering on earth. A teenage son being sent into a huge high school in a few days. A youngest son shedding the last few layers of boyhood. 

I’ve never been described as graceful (in fact, I am most often described as intense) – so it should not surprise me that my acts of releasing tend to be more awkward and jerky than elegant and smooth. Thankfully, like most things, releasing is a slowly-learned art which means that there is great room for improvement as the frequency of releasing increases. 

Henri Nouwen has been leading me in learning the art of the releasing. He spent many months of his life following The Flying Rodleighs, a trapeze troupe that grabbed his attention at a circus he attended with his father. As such, he learned up close the twin arts of catching and releasing. He was shocked to see how many hours of practice it took to create an elegant act that only lasted minutes. In an interview with the catcher, Nouwen learned that the secret of the flier lies in the catcher. 

“The flyer gets all the attention, but their lives depend on the catcher! I don’t want the applause, I like what I am doing, and I have to give it all I’ve got.” 

If I trust in human readiness, I will never release. No one is ever fully ready to die, nor is a teenager ever fully ready for the complexity of adolescence. And goodness knows that this momma’s heart will never be fully ready to let go of these babies-turned-boys-becoming men. But release is less about our readiness and more about the reliability of the catcher. And the scarred hands that catch them all have been through death and back to prove their reliability. 

In the act of releasing, it is easy to be distracted and overwhelmed by the height of the jump, the potential for falling, and the hundred moving parts surrounding the release; however, the main job of the releaser is to keep eyes locked on the catcher who does most of the work. 

Releasing is about joyfully learning to let God, the catcher, have his way. It is about fighting to remember that He is good and does good (Psalm 119:68). 

“The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works” (Psalm 145:13-17). 

Releasing is about remembering that all his paths towards us are laced with lovingkindness (Psalm 25:10) and that the footpaths upon which he leads us drip with his faithfulness (Psalm 65:11).

Releasing is about learning to calibrate my faith by the stability and sureness of the catcher rather than by the instability of my circumstances and my own inability. 

The beauty happens in the space between the bars, and my catcher is more sure than the rising of the sun. As such, I can lean into the art of releasing despite all my fears and foibles. I have a lot of releasing to do, but, thankfully, I have a God who delights to catch his people.

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