Life is full of changes, (yes, Rachel, WE KNOW!). I’ve written about these changes time and time again. What's amazing is that I learn something new with each change that comes…and they don't stop coming. There are many good changes that happen throughout our life, and many joyful moments to cherish but there are also hard changes. Of these ‘hard changes’ the most challenging are the ones we cannot control. And one thing we can never control is the actions of others. They certainly affect us, sometimes deeply, but we have no authority over their choices. But, what many people don’t realize is these changes we have no control over are also opportunities to be an example of profound love. How? By letting go
Here are three ways letting go expresses deep love:
1. It shows respect.
As I grew up, I watched my mother stress about what my siblings and I would choose to do with our lives. When I was choosing a college, my mom wanted me to go to a school that was close by so I could visit home and be safe. However, I was called to go further away. I can remember telling her, “I’m meant to go to Saint Vincent College.” I could read that she didn’t really want me to go there since it was so far away. It would be the furthest away I’d ever been on my own, but she never objected. She voiced her reluctance to send me there, but never prevented me.
She did this again when I decided to start dating Michael, who is now my husband. I can remember the conversation we had over the phone. It went something like this:
Me (nervous): “Mom, I’m going to ask him out. I really think I’m supposed to date him.”
Mom: “Well, I don’t think you should but I will always be here to support you and your decisions.”
I’m glad my Mom let me know she had my back even when she didn’t think I should ask him out. The amount of respect it took for my mother to encourage a decision she didn’t agree with made such an impact on my life. She let me go and showed that as an adult my decisions were important and should be respected. I could tell watching me grow up wasn’t easy, but her actions taught me that being a loving parent takes great amounts of respect especially as your children grow into adulthood.
2. It’s unselfish
Similar situations come up in romantic relationships, particularly when a couple breaks up. It’s messy and complex, and emotionally charged. Rarely are they clean. I know. I can remember my first relationship and breakup. I loved my then-boyfriend very much, but I knew in the depths of my soul he wasn’t the man God intended for me. I didn’t internalize this knowledge during our discernment either. I told him very honestly,
“I love you so much, that if you’re not the man God wants me to marry then I’ll let you go”
My logic was that if he wasn’t the man for me, I also wasn’t the woman for him. I couldn’t keep him for myself if he was meant to marry another woman, because it would mean I would be preventing him from living the life God intended for him. Since it turned out we were not meant to be more than boyfriend/girlfriend, I let him go. After almost a year of dating it was a painful change for both of us, but I don’t regret it. In this case, I had to step beyond my feelings for him and face the fact that marriage wasn’t in God’s plan for us. I loved him so much that I let him go.
3. It’s shows trust
Sometimes the most unexpected change that affects people isn’t the romantic relationships, but the close friendships that dwindle away slowly simply because your lives merge onto different paths. I recently experience the realization that that one of my friendships was unintentionally fading (or just changing).
We were going our separate ways and our lives were traversing in very different directions. This changed our friendship and the relationship we once had seemed to be lost in the shuffle of everyday life. The hardest part of this was that I couldn’t decide for my friend whether or not we would try to keep our friendship vibrantly alive. She was moving forward when I was staying behind and I didn’t want to stop her. God was taking her somewhere great and I couldn’t stop her. I loved her too much! But among this uncertainty, I knew I had to trust that we would stay in touch and we would remain close friends even if things change.
My point in telling these short tales and experiences is to share a lesson I’ve seemed to learn early: One of the greatest forms of love is letting someone go. Every person out there has experienced letting someone else go, whether it's a child, friend, or romantic interest. As our lives continually change, the challenge of relinquishing the control we desire out of respect, unselfish love and trust never seems to ease. However, when you come to these instances remember that the respect, unselfish love and trust you show to others is your own reflection of the love God shows to each of us. God never decides what we should do and doesn’t interfere with our free will. He lets us choose, hoping we’ll remain close to him following his plan and his infinite love. Yes, there are definitely times where we have to speak up and hold one another accountable, but the positive life decisions I’ve laid out (although seemingly painful at first) aren’t examples of those times. To show a profound form of love, simply let go!