Please Release Me

That’s the title of of an old Engelbert Humperdink hit from the 60’s (my mother was the right age, I got it second hand). I’ve been thinking a lot about that song this week for a couple of reasons.

The first reason comes from small group. We’re studying Acts right now, and this week was Acts 13–14. At the beginning of chapter 13, the Holy Spirits tells the church, while they were fasting and praying, to set apart Barnabas and Saul “for the work to which I have called them.” The church fasted and prayed some more, and then “sent them off,” or so say most translations.

Have you ever wondered why the church fasted and prayed after hearing from the Holy Spirit? That’s something we usually associate with trying to hear from Him. They had already heard what to do, and yet they fasted and prayed some more.

I suspect (but obviously don’t know) that the answer lies in the “sent them off.” The word there is usually translated “release” or “let go.” It’s a reasonable guess that they had to do some fasting and praying before they could bring themselves to do that. The church was very young, Barnabas was one of its core leaders (he’s listed first among the teachers and prophets a couple of verses earlier), and Saul was fast becoming the same. When you don’t have many “go to” people, you have a tendency to hang on tightly to the ones you have.

So the church had to fast and pray. They had to fast and pray to get to the point of releasing Barnabas and Saul to do what God had so clearly called them to do. The church didn’t “send” them — their trip wasn’t the church’s idea, it was the Holy Spirit’s. The church let them go. They had to go from protection mode (they’d already saved Paul’s life once) to release mode, from hold on tightly, to don’t hold on at all.

The second reason comes from … life. Last night, our daughter accepted a teaching position in Cambodia for two years. Our only child and our only son-in-law are taking the one and only WCG (World’s Cutest Grandchild) and moving to, literally, the other side of the world.

And that was when I understood why the church continue to fast and pray after they heard from God.

A dear friend said this morning that life was all about letting go. She’s right. The lesson from Acts 13 is a practical, every day, lesson — we have to let go. As toddlers we want to hold on to our pacifier, but we have to let go. As children we want to hold on to our favorite blanket or stuffed animal, but we have to let go. As teenagers we want to hold on to our first love, but we (usually) have to let go. As we get older, we want to hold on to grandparents as they get older and older, but we have to (eventually) let go.

As parents, we want to hold on to our kids forever and ever, but we have to let go. This was never easy, but in our increasingly child-worshiping culture, it’s getting to be almost impossible. And if we make it through that, a (seemingly) few years later we want to hold on to our grandkids forever and ever and ever and ever and … yes, it’s even harder with them than it was with our kids, and why is that and no I don’t really want an answer.

But we have to let them go. We have to do what the Acts church did — release them to do “the work to which God has called them.” To do otherwise is to stand in God’s way, and historically that’s not a place for the faint of heart or intelligent of mind. (I’m the former.)

That’s not to say it’s easy. For one thing, it makes it extremely difficult to talk about. As I told the kids this weekend, there is nobody more excited for them than I am. And that’s absolutely true. I’m thrilled with what God has called them to, and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in and through them during their time there. I’m glad they picked a place I’m already in once a year, and I’m excited that their presence might be enough to convince my wife to go with me.

On the other hand, let me repeat that phrase — our only child and her husband are taking our only grandchild and moving to the other side of the world.

Yeah.

So, if you hear Engelbert as my ringtone over the next few months, you’ll know why.

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