“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.” (John 20:17)
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of change. I mean, I eat the same breakfast every day. And when I am in town, I spend my time with Jesus in the exact same spot. I do my best writing when I am at my dining room table. And when I have to travel I can’t wait to get back home to my normal routine.
So needless to say, when my dad passed away last week it was a bit of a jolt. It had been a long, hard year for him and he was ready to go, but once he was gone it was a bit disorienting. One day you have parents and the next day they are both gone. And as glad as I am that they are with Jesus—and finally alive and free—it is a bit strange looking ahead to life without them. One of our friends called it “the second empty nest.” And that’s exactly what it feels like. I will miss my parents immensely, but at the same time it also opens the future to certain possibilities that were just not available during the past couple of years as I had to help care for them. So while it is disorienting and frightening, it is also leaves me curious and hopeful. What does God have in store for this next season of life?
It feels a little like swinging on a trapeze bar. You enjoy the security and the stability and the safety and the comfort of the bar you are currently holding onto, but in order to experience the trapeze the way it was meant to be experienced you must, at some point, let go of the bar you are holding onto and take hold of a bar that has not yet come into view. It is impossible to take hold of the new if you are unwilling to let go of the old. And that can be incredibly scary, because for an instant you are hanging in midair.
I’m guessing that’s kind of how Mary and the disciples felt at the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, as Jesus appeared to Mary outside the empty tomb he had to tell her not to hold on to him. In some ways she was going to have to let go of what she knew of Jesus up to that point, in order to take hold of the Jesus she did not yet know. And that had to be both terrifying and exhilarating. “Mary, let go of the me you have grown comfortable and familiar with, so that you can take hold of a me that is bigger and more glorious than you ever dared dream of.”
You see, in the spiritual life we must constantly be willing to let go of the old, in order to take hold of the new. We can’t grasp the new bar until we are willing to let go of the old one. Or, as Jesus once reminded us, we can’t put new wine in old wineskins. Our old ways of being and seeing cannot contain the new life of the Spirit that God desires to pour into us. So in order to fully embrace the new, we must first be willing to fully let go of the old. That’s what the resurrection is all about. The only question is, are we willing?