The counterintuitive step we need to get closer to God

Pavel L Photo and Video | Shutterstock

Mothering my little daughter has made me realize he might be asking something of me.

“Up!” My then-10-month-old daughter gripped my leg and glared up at me.

I reached down to hoist her into my arms but she had an iron grip on my pants.

“You have to let go to get up,” I told her. And was immediately struck by the spiritual weight of the maxim. It is by no means obvious that you have to let go of an aid in order to ascend.

My daughter gripped to my pants as if for dear life, tugging, and pleading. Gripping was a skill she had mastered. Unclenching was a separate skill, and she had mental reservations. Why would she let go of the mother she wanted to be with?

It was difficult for me to help her unclench her fists, but she was soon in my arms, and much happier.

Around a year old, my girl became a world-class hoarder. She would toddle around the house, collecting treasures, holding as many as she could in her hands. When she dropped one, she would squat down, and pick it up. Often, this meant accidentally dropping another thing.

My husband and I would watch as she set about the re-assembly process, which often ended in frustration, but never in surrender. There is no reasoning with a 1-year-old. She wanted every piece of her collection. I’m still amazed by the amount she was able to carry, but I would have loved to spare her the agony. She carried so many things she was unable to use any of them.

I think of her struggle and repeat to myself sometimes, I have to let go to get up, wondering what sin I’m gripping, or good I’m hoarding, that keeps me from being able to draw closer to Him.

I turned to the question again this Lent.

Letting go cannot be preplanned and mapped out. God might reveal to me—to you—a fault to work on, that He wants to give us the grace to be free of, but the actual letting go comes in the moment, and needs repeating over and over again. 

My daughter learns better than me. She has learned that when she wants up, the best way to get there is to throw her arms open and roofward. She knows, too, that if she wants something new, she might need to set aside what she’s holding.