Letting Go

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by Cheryl

I am a quitter.

Over the course of my life, I have watched myself quit time after time, letting go of things I love, who I’ve aspired to be, and what I believe I want/need. Some of the quitting has been easy –”I’m sorry, I can’t volunteer in the classrooms anymore, I have small children at home” –and some has been hard –”But I want to be a published writer!”

There’s a certain type of grief that accompanies letting go. I imagine the scoffs and scorns Jane Clayson Johnson received when she gave up money and fame (quite literally) to be a wife and mother. She said, “When I left…to get married and to have a family, many of my colleagues told me I was crazy, that I was out of my mind. I had turned down a lucrative, four-year network contract, working on exciting, high-profile, prime-time projects.”(1) Although I never had to give up a successful career, I think I understand. I have felt the smallest portion of that sacrifice myself. I gave up a chance to change my major, one that would have resulted in a music career. I gave up a chance at writing professionally. Side “careers” have been swept away even as they began. Through it all, I’ve heard the laughing and have witnessed the pity. I have heard the comments about how I could have been somebody great. I have even felt people criticize my pain, because it was not the same as theirs.

Each time Heavenly Father has asked me to quit some part of who I am individually, of what I believed gave my life value, I have done my best to obey. I have not always obeyed with a willing heart, however. Sometimes, I go kicking and screaming and dragging my feet –all because I’m being told that my ideas and my ways are not as wise. I don’t like to be told I am not doing things wisely. I don’t like to be told I don’t understand everything, especially when what I love and value has been earned through earnest time, talents, and inspiration.

I remember exactly where I was when the years of quitting –of letting go –really began to feel like sacrifice. In one moment, I let go and told Heavenly Father, “Okay. Thy will be done.” I was 5 months pregnant with our fifth child. I had been fighting the Spirit for months, begging Heavenly Father to make this fifth baby be our last baby. I wanted to be done! Isn’t five enough? Aren’t I already stretched too thin? I was watching General Conference. Elder Oaks began to talk. He said this:

A familiar example of losing ourselves in the service of others—this one not unique to Latter-day Saints—is the sacrifice parents make for their children. Mothers suffer pain and loss of personal priorities and comforts to bear and rear each child. Fathers adjust their lives and priorities to support a family. The gap between those who are and those who are not willing to do this is widening in today’s world. One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”
We rejoice that so many Latter-day Saint couples are among that unselfish group who are willing to surrender their personal priorities and serve the Lord by bearing and rearing the children our Heavenly Father sends to their care. We also rejoice in those who care for disabled family members and aged parents. None of this service asks, what’s in it for me? All of it requires setting aside personal convenience for unselfish service. All of it stands in contrast to the fame, fortune, and other immediate gratification that are the worldly ways of so many in our day.

(“Unselfish Service” April 2009 General Conference)

I immediately let it go. I said, in my heart, “I’ll obey.” I never thought about whether or not our fifth baby was our last again, and in March of 2012, we had our sixth.

Letting go, sacrificing, laying our sins and our desires on the altars before God is probably the hardest thing for us, as mortal beings, to do. Walking that fine line between self-reliance, education, and giving up our desires to the Divine can be precarious at best. And yet, it has been witnessed to me time and time again that this is right, as the Spirit whispers to me, “Cheryl, maybe what you want to become is not what I need you to become.”

One of our bloggers, Jendoop, said this:

In the end I’ve already chosen to sacrifice everything for faith through the covenants I’ve made. The difficulty is in the fact that the Lord allows me to retain possession until he needs those sacrifices. Life seems to be a slow process of God taking sacrificed items out of my hands one by one and each time replacing them with faith. At the end of my life I will return to him with nothing, except my faith and covenants. It is amazing that no matter how often this process is repeated, sacrifice = faith, I reconsider my sacrifice each time. I pause, clinging to it to feel my possession, close my eyes, loosen my grip, and let go. That letting go can be exhilarating, the rush right before the parachute of faith catches me. The letting go teaches me that I am more of God than I am of this world.

Many voices close to me (as well as in society) tell me I have given up too much for my children. To have my children. To raise my children. It’s true that even after we had our fifth child and before we had decided to have our sixth, I had many more instances of being told to let things go in order to be the mother my children needed. I have had to quit many, many things. I quit consistently! But I tell those naysayers (including myself) that they need to understand only this: Heavenly Father knows and loves me. He knows and loves my children. If I can’t trust Him, then who can I trust? Letting all of the outisde stuff go has taught me, more than anything I could have recieved from keeping it, is that God truly has a plan for me. He knows me. He knows.

  • How have you let the world go? 
  • How have you been able to sacrifice self in order to serve God? 
  • Are there things that are easier and/or harder for you to let go? 
  • Have you been blessed for “quitting”?

1. I Am a Mother, Jane Clayson Johnson, p.3

About Cheryl

Cheryl has been blogging for many years about --but not limited to --her children (there are six), her husband (there is one), her depression (not fun), her travels (very fun!), her religion (loves it), and anything else that strikes her fancy. Right now she's probably reading a book or changing a diaper, maybe at the same time...

7 Responses to Letting Go

  1. MSKeller says:

    Such a timely post Cheryl. It is essential that we look past where we’ve been to where we want to be.
    I’m just going to toss out my answers to these questions: How have you let the world go? – I think that my best way has been a ‘hand flip’ that someone (Sorry I don’t recall who) showed us at Time-out for Women. It is a physical and mental ‘away with you’, sort of refocusing. I’ve found that it works wonders when I’m realizing that I’m looking backwards.

    How have you been able to sacrifice self in order to serve God? – While I feel that I do much to serve (but never ENOUGH!) I think that really looking to see where I am being unnecessarily selfish, is where I can choose a better way.

    Are there things that are easier and/or harder for you to let go? – Oh definitely. Of course!

    Have you been blessed for “quitting”? – Letting go of past habits, possessions, relationships. . . opens up a ‘free space’ for the new to enter. I was once really contemplating this topic and wrote a poem. I’ll share it.

    Empty to be Filled

    I’ve often wondered
    about the rhythms of life
    the emptying
    the sleeping
    the eating.

    Why are we so high maintenance?
    Why must I be interrupted to pause?
    What are the lessons to be taught?

    Insomniac ponderings
    about the stillness of rest,
    the natural purging
    of impurities
    and the hunger to being attended to
    caught my attention.

    Why can we not go forever
    without sleep?
    Why must we pause
    to allow our bodies to fill
    and empty
    time and again?

    Then, as I lay in sleepless quiet
    it occured to me
    the lessons I needed to learn.

    That the emptying
    was as important as the filling.
    To leave room for more,
    I needed to toss the old.

    Old thoughts, possessions
    even relationships. . .
    so that there was room
    for the new, the updated
    the fresh.

    I realized my quiet
    was as much ‘being’
    as my busyness.
    That my mind was as productive
    in my velvet night pause
    as in my productive moments
    of brainstorming.

    I learned that I must refuel
    my soul, my spirit
    my body. . . often.
    It isn’t something glanced at once
    then left to languish into disrepair.
    Not in my being,
    Not in my home
    Not in my relationships
    Not in my family
    or education
    or spiritual nurturing
    or emotional health.

    The natural rhythms of the physical
    is merely a lesson
    for the whole.

    Empty to be full.
    Fill to be renewed
    Be still to refresh.
    ”Being” is more than ‘doing’.

    —<–{@ MSK

    • Cheryl says:

      Marsha, I really like your poem. I think that tends to be one of the greatest lessons we are to learn –that pausing, stopping (quitting!) can be as good for us as moving/working. Thank you!

  2. Cheryl, this is such a beautiful post. I just want you to know, that as a mother who has raised her five children, been through it all — it is more than worth such momentary sacrifices of self. The return on investment is beyond what I could possibly even begin to explain. I know you already have a sense of this, thus your willingness to submit.

  3. Radel Martinez says:

    Beautiful!! I love to read your writing! Thank you for putting some of my own struggles into words.

  4. jendoop says:

    So good Cheryl! And exemplifies why it is so difficult to explain how much we value motherhood when the world does not value things in the way that we do. Trusting God, to have him in our lives, is priceless, even when what He asks is difficult. It truly grieves me that so many live their lives seeking what the world tells them is of value only to find their wallets full but their souls empty and wanting. And doing both doesn’t work either, it results in a lot of turmoil.

  5. [...] wrote a very recent post on this forum called Letting Go, in which I spoke about submitting to God’s will. President Eyring’s talk reiterated to [...]

  6. Cheryl says:

    Thank you, Kathryn. I used to get angry with the more experienced mothers, the grandmothers, the women in RS who would just smile and nod and tell me to enjoy this time while I have it –I would just get frustrated with them. Didn’t they realize how hard my life is? But now I realize, truly, that they felt it just as much as I do now. They are smiling because they are on the other side of their sacrifice, and as you said, it is worth it all. Of course, remembering this daily is a challenge, but I think I’m getting better. :)

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