I have returned from my brief sojourn into the ancient landscapes of Turkey and Greece, and what an incredible journey it has been! Life changing is an understatement. I will be mining the riches of this trip for a long time to come.
As I continue my slow re-integration into home life, I am reminded of a few prevalent themes that kept popping up throughout my travels. I will do my best to write about them as they continue to simmer.
First up: Lessons in Letting Go & Giving Up
From the first step to the last, I was reminded of the importance of learning to surrender, to willingly let go of all I thought I needed.
It started before I even left home. Airport security scrutinized my carefully prepared, under-100 ml selection of toiletries, and declared I was over the limit for carry-on baggage. Before I was even past the first checkpoint, I had to decide what to take and what to give up. I weighed my choices – which items were critical and which could be easily replaced? – and handed over any offenders.
The security officer asked me, “Are you willingly surrendering these?” The language struck a cord within me. Surrender.
What was I willing to give up in order to move forward?
Pondering this question in a tangible way opened the door to other eye-opening thoughts: What will serve me best on my journey? What will hinder me?
And with that, I embarked on a journey with much greater ramifications than simply the acceptable amount of liquids and gels in a post-9/11 world.
The difference between carry-on and carrion is minimal. In this life we are called to account for our thoughts, behaviours, feelings, actions. Those elements that weigh us down need to be carefully considered in light of our willingness to open our hands and hearts. How much do you wish to cling to old ways, old hurts, old grievances? When your desire to be free of these outweighs your aspirations for retribution or revenge, then you will be able to step fully and willingly into complete surrender.
Intricately linked to letting go is the idea that we are created to be given, or poured out as it were. This metaphor served me well throughout my journey. Everywhere I went, I left behind something that I hoped would be of use to another. Not garbage or refuse that I was tired of carrying, but strategically placed gifts, thanksgiving offerings for the safe havens in which I was offered refuge. A reusable water bottle in Kusadasi, a beach towel in Thessaloniki, small tokens of appreciation.
The most significant offering was the red raincoat I left at the Amalia Hotel in Athens. I couldn’t tell you why that hotel, or why that gift at that moment. There were other, less expensive places to stay, but I felt it was critical to stay there the night before I met up with the Writer’s Retreat group on Hydra. I was moving from solitude to social once again. As I prepared to leave the Amalia, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I knew it was time to leave behind my red coat.
My red raincoat. This jacket had offered so much protection over the years – mental, physical, emotional. On every level, I loved it. I had lugged it through +27 C weather in Pamukkale (in all honesty, I did not love it as much in those sweaty moments!). I did not let it go even then. It was not yet time.
Amazingly, this jacket was the only one I owned that would continue to button even at the end of my twin pregnancy in 2012. It had willingly offered protection against the elements for myself and my unborn children when the Northern winter encroached on our little family. I had used it as a blanket on red-eye flights. It became a single source of comfort when I felt self conscious of my body and I wanted only to be covered, protected from piercing gazes. It was the red raincoat of my dreams, coming into being when I most needed it. It had become worn around the edges from so much use. Like the velveteen rabbit, it had become real. I cried when I left it behind.
This is the beauty of it all: In learning to let go of everything I had once used to protect myself, I was learning to let Jesus in. My primary protection – the blood of the lamb – overcame every other thing.
As always, someone else has summed it up in song better than I ever could:
Through every battle
Through every heartbreak
Through every circumstance
I believe that
You are my fortress
Oh, You are my portion
And You are my hiding place, oh
I believe You are…
The Way (New Horizon), Pat Barrett
I tried my best to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings at each interval. I do not know who received each offering, but I am hopeful they reached their intended recipients.
As if to reinforce the lesson in letting go, I ended up leaving my bag behind in Vancouver on the way home. The connecting flight was late leaving Montreal. I had to switch airline carriers in order to make the last flight of the night back to the north. Due to the delay, I was hustling. At this point in my journey, my luggage was no longer carry-on thanks to the gifts I had bought in Greece. My bag was only checked as far as Vancouver. I was at a choice point: get my bag and miss my flight, or leave my bag and make the connection home.
I heard a voice asking, “What are you willing to give up?”
As I moved quickly through the airport, I knew the answer. I would gladly leave behind all my worldly possessions in order to make it home. I had promised my children we would be reunited the following morning.
There were only 86 minutes flying time between me and the two heartbeats that mean the most to me in the entire world. I was not going to miss that flight. I had perfect peace about the decision.
As it turns out, the risk of losing it all is irrelevant when you know who you belong to. Everything I once would have counted as loss, I now understood to be gain. Paul understood.
I have learned these lessons, as I traveled through airports, across borders, into the heart of the ancient texts that sustain me.
May all our surrendered moments lead us deeper into the One who gave it all.
May all our letting go reveal the greater worth of what we have gained.
May every choice point guide us home.