Letting Go of God

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A popular spiritual phrase I first encountered when I was a teenager was “Let go and let God.” Even today I still hear people using these words as a way of comforting or giving advice to others.

If you are angry because of some injustice, let go of that anger. God will take justice for you.

If you are sad because of some misfortune, let go of that sadness. God will make you happy.

If you are disappointed because a broken promise, let go of that disappointment. God will give you hope. He always keeps his promise.

If you are confused and cannot understand what is happening, let go of that confusion. God will make things clear to you in his own time and wisdom.

And so on.

While the above words would probably make a pretty good sermon, they are at best, a temporary reprieve. Do not get me wrong. I do think some people have been genuinely touched and healed by those words. It has allowed them to move on or move forward (which are pretty popular terms these days).

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Rev. Arnel Tan in my column and was delighted to receive an email from him. Let me tell you another story about him. Maybe he will send me another email.

Arnel was officiating a child-dedication ceremony where my wife was a ninang (godmother) and my good friend Arthur Yap (who is a pastor and president of Davao Christian High School) also stood as a ninong (godfather). During the sermon, as he was advising the parents on the roles of the godfathers and godmothers, Arnel saw both Arthur and I sitting close to each other. He said, “You have a complete lineup here. If you want your child’s faith to grow, you go to Arthur. But if you want her faith to be challenged, you go to Andy.”

So let me challenge you to not just let go and let God but to let go of God.

To let go and let God is a temporary relief to a deep-seated longing within you. The admonishment helps you postpone that longing and you hope that the answer will come later in your life, or even at the moment of death. It is like wishing for a magic band-aid to heal all your scrapes and bruises. It is like hoping for a divine father to always be there to fight your battles and to provide what you want and need.

There is nothing wrong with such desires, but if we keep indulging them, we will never grow.

There is an old saying that goes “When a father helps his infant child, all the world smiles. When a father helps his grown-up child, all the world weeps.” (Of course, this phrase also applies to mothers).

As a parent, one of my deepest desires is for my children to no longer need me; for them to be able to think on their own; to handle their own problems; to earn their own money; to solve their own problems. This is how nature is. The eaglet gets kicked out of the nest after some time. The lion cub is no longer fed but taught to hunt on its own.

Why do people hang on to a concept of God that cripples instead of enables them?

“How do I find God?” asked the disciple.

“Let go of God,” said the master.

“How do I do that?” said the disciple.

“It is like letting go of air,” said the master.

 

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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3 thoughts on “Letting Go of God”

  1. The morning after I’d just read this column I heard a public service ad on the radio say that stress might be the main cause of most illness; I thought back about your advice against the “let go and let God” attitude, though it may very well be used to “relieve stress” by changing the perspective for the person using it; does the concept of “God” in that phrase have to be verified by science in order to be useful in relieving stress and illness? If someone uses “magic” to make themselves healthier, does that make it “real”?

    Later that day I read about the part of our brain that specializes in empathy, self-restraint, and change in perspective;
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/12/self-control-is-just-empathy-with-a-future-you/509726/
    The point was that self-restraint is really empathy for our future self, and that the same part of our brain that changes perspective is the part that we utilize for this;

    All of us are born into the surrounding materialist culture, and its simplistic urge-driven design and encouragement of atavistic impulses is easy enough to understand; then some of us utilize that “right temporoparietal junction” (rTPJ) to look away, and often use tools like the world’s religions to guide that change, away from harm and toward wholeness;

    Finally, that same day I continued translating my Daoist “LingBao” scripture, and it suggested, as it often does, another change in perspective, away from the “netherworld” of the mind of man, with its immediate desires, its confusion, the materialist culture, so separate as it is from the universe, from the “Dao”, and suggesting a ” simple, single move”, from looking “down”, into that netherworld, where all your science and reason are, to looking “up”, into the sky, past the clouds, through the heavens, toward the origins, the beginning of time, toward our ancestors, and encouraging us to take their perspective, and then on looking back into the daily existence of our world, to carry them forward within us as they might have hoped and expected, from “up there”; it’s like the Catholic concept of the “crowd of witnesses”, cheering us on as we make our decisions. Would they want us to let go of God, to be more “independent”, all hubris within our limited netherworld, the mud of our mundane and material mind, the burning acidic pool, the hot springs of the lost-in-thought self-absorption? Or to look “up”, to “let” the Garden of Eden that is the universe all around us nurture us on our path as we walk with divinity in a glorious festival of salvation?

  2. “As a parent, one of my deepest desires is for my children to no longer need me; for them to be able to think on their own; to handle their own problems; to earn their own money; to solve their own problems. This is how nature is. The eaglet gets kicked out of the nest after some time. The lion cub is no longer fed but taught to hunt on its own.”

    ALL ABOOOOARD!!! OK, Let’s get this logic train moving. Children don’t NEED their parents, but, if we accept your premise, than an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Father is not NEEDED. At some point, we all don’t NEED anything or anyone. I don’t NEED (ok, I will stop capitalizing) roads. I can drive anywhere I want, so I don’t need society to make them for me. I could continue with illustrations such as those, but I believe the point is made.

    Would I want my son to ever be at the point that he does not need me? Well, he is in his twenty’s. He can think on his own. He has actually done it since he was in his mother’s womb, but more tangibly from very early on in life. I guess he has not needed me for two decades. What have I been doing? He is earning his own money. I guess I should bow out of his life now. Because that is how your comparison goes. Solve his own problem’s? Why should he have problems? Remember, he can think on his own. Oh. He doesn’t know everything. Hmm… Maybe he can benefit from someone with more knowledge, experience, or, maybe, maybe, wisdom? Remember where we are? The logic train? Please show me one person that can do without the benefit of another.

    We can then go on to nature. You talked about an eaglet & a cub. I hope you are not suggesting that everything that happens in nature should be duplicated in people or that animals are not equal to humans? Have you tried asexual reproduction? Please tell me that you can duplicate the female rattlesnake in that regard.

    You have spoken very fondly of your father while you are middle-aged-ish and your father being elderly. Why have you not let go of your earthly father? You are encouraging (oops, I am sorry- you use the word challenging) others to give up a Heavenly Father? I mean no disrespect toward your father, but he is not God. So, it is ok for you to have a longing, a love for an imperfect being, but you want others to walk away from a perfect one? hmmm… it seems like you got off the train somewhere. Let’s try to get you back on track.

    I was looking for evidence of the urban legend of the study where some infants were raised without human contact: i.e. love. Of course, I could not find it. What I did find was the following:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_deprivation
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Spitz
    http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adoption/studies/HarlowMLE.htm

    “While the above words would probably make a pretty good sermon, they are at best, a temporary reprieve.”

    Temporary? I think you are missing the point entirely.

    “To let go and let God is a temporary relief to a deep-seated longing within you. The admonishment helps you postpone that longing and you hope that the answer will come later in your life, or even at the moment of death. It is like wishing for a magic band-aid to heal all your scrapes and bruises. It is like hoping for a divine father to always be there to fight your battles and to provide what you want and need.”

    I am not even positive how to describe how wrong this is. I am not sure if you are intentionally missing the point or not. Although I am not a huge fan of the phrase itself, if there is a God, there should be no benefit to “letting go OF God”. In your “I am an atheist who believes in God” philosophy, if there is a God that we are misrepresenting, but did create the universe, we would have to acknowledge that we need God to even breathe. We can set aside the “breathe of God” issue and acknowledge oxygen as being made by the very God that you described. Even if God was a “wind up the universe and walk away” kind of God, I would not be so flippant about letting go of that kind of God.

    If you look at God from a Judeo-Christian perspective, God is our Father. Our “deep-seated longing within” us is for a wholesome, loving relationship with our Father. He is not just a dude who is smarter than us that can make all of our problems go away. It should be obvious that Christians admit that they have problems. A Bible-believing Christian admits that they are imperfect. We NEED our Father. And we should love Him like He loves us. Like I assume you love your wife and children.

    If you really “let go and let God”, you either don’t get, or lose, the unrighteous anger. You don’t “hope” for “justice”. The same for sadness-happy and so forth. It seems like most people I know (and, please, don’t get caught up on the most, or ask for studies- it is a very informal most), either themselves or their children at SOME point in their life, have found comfort in their parent’s embrace, no matter how bad things seemed outside of their arms. I think I mentioned in a previous posting that the doctor told us my mom was going to die within an hour or two. She lived for six more years, in and out of a bad state of convalescence. About two weeks before that initial prognosis, my dad fell over dead. No pulse or respiration. He lived twelve more years. I was their primary (and in-home) caregiver, also taking care of my mentally retarded sister and being a single father. This all occurred after becoming a born-again Christian. I was far from perfect. And still am far from. But, God gave me the strength and encouragement to do what I ought. He did not do it FOR me, and I could have not done it without Him. Did I mention that this was while working more than forty hours a week and fighting for custody? I do not mention to seek praise or to make myself look good, but to illustrate the power of Him. The Him you want me to let go of?

    Another more recent example is that I work in a retail setting. We were recently robbed at gunpoint. In just over a second, one of the robbers went from the front door to cocking his gun to a gun to the back of my head in just about one second. Video justifies the time. In that second, I prayed that God would keep everyone safe. An instant calmness came over me. A calmness that I have to this day. Everyone who has seen the video was amazed at how calm I was. The three other employees who were there keep commenting about how they saw me react, and there was an unanticipated calm that came over them. One of the workers (actually, the owner), was there twelve years previously during am unarmed break-in after hours. Her reaction between the two is night and day. How do you explain her screaming, with vivid nightmares twelve years after the fact without a gun versus now, with a gun to her head, too? Although I will probably never forget the experience, I have already “let go” of it, even as it was happening. As my mother passed. As my father passed. This is the God that you want me to let go of? And you compare who He is with my need to make my own money? Really, Andy. I am sorry that these things are such a challenge for you. I do pray that whatever bitterness and resentment you are hiding gets resolved. I don’t understand why an atheist, even an atheist who believes in God, spends so much time talking in circles about things they don’t believe in.

    When I played sports, I learned that if I wanted to get better (to grow), that I needed to compete against those better than me. In school, you learn from teachers, who (usually) know more than you. At most jobs, you are trained by people with more experience than you. How does “letting go” of THE Teacher help you grow? And, if your response is that is an answer for those who believe, then it is for both believers and non-believers if it is true. If it is not true, then all of your words (and mine) would be meaningless.

    Oops. The train is at the station. Before we head off on the next adventure, maybe you can help me. I was thinking about starting my own blog. I was debating what I was going to write about sometimes. What do you think would be better? Writing to all the people who believe in a flat-earth or to all the people who believe in shadow people?

  3. Mr. Freethinker Rebuttal,

    I think you’re the one who missed the logic train when you started off with the premise “Children don’t NEED their parents” which you falsely attributed to me. I never implied nor said that in my article. It is quite clear that what I meant was there comes a time when babies are no longer babies and when children are no longer children, and they have to be kicked out of the nest and learn to fend for themselves. Do you still suck your mother’s teats for milk? I don’t think so.

    Go ahead and start your own blog. It might be a great learning experience for you…better than just trying to build your arguments on someone else’s thoughts all the time eh?

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