What Are You Holding On To

Morning friend,

It’s been a crazy week.  Lots going on both personally and with ministry.  Our CONQUER membership is OPEN now until April 9th.  CONQUER is an educational and support group for Christian women in destructive marriages.  It will give you the support, wisdom and information you need to make the next right choices and grow through the difficulties you are facing.  If you’d like more information go to www.leslievernick.com/conquersignup.

Because of the busyness of this week, I’m going to share a short article from a sister who participates here on this blog.  Sometimes we are holding on to something God wants us to let go of so that he can give us something more.  What might that be for you?

Trading Up

By the time I noticed he was missing, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. Between the pool in the backyard and the road out front there were a myriad of other dangers to navigate for an 18-month old — where was he?

Somewhere between somebody’s tantrum and my own exhaustion I had gone to the kitchen to get a “lolly” – the uber reward for some task well done.  On our way to the amusement park certainly there was a sidetrack and now I was one kid short!  Needless to say, I was one point short of panic.  The open driver’s door to our oversized SUV, parked in the driveway, was the answer.  There he was donning only his leaky diaper, his hands gripping eight and four on the wheel, one of them carefully clenching a lolly stick from yesteryear covered with the many treasures of the car floor.  

He had a bird’s eye view of the horn. “MOM!! I drive this truck – look!”  Clock ticking, I grabbed his skinny torso not expecting his response.  Hands gripped tighter to the eight and four position, eyes fixed firmly on the horn, and his tiny fist clenched that lolly stick for dear life. “NO!  I DRIVE US!  GET IN!”

“I can’t”, I replied, “I have to find someone to give this lolly to,” pulling his favorite treat out of my pocket .  “I has mine!” he stated thrusting his crumb-encrusted stick out proudly.  The absurdity of the moment was not to be wasted.  I stepped back and got a bigger picture of the events unfolding complete with a voice that whispered into my heart, “Do you know how often you look like this?  I have good gifts to give you, yet you want to drive your life and you can’t see over the horn … and then you sit there resolutely holding crumb encrusted sticks, stuck in the driveway.” HA! Got it! Thank you, Jesus, for teachable moments.

St. Augustine perhaps said it best in The City of God, [Tweet “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”]  I don’t know about you, but in that moment and more so in the past few years, I have had to learn a lot about “trading up” – letting go of the marginal (sometimes miserable) to receive the magnificent. 

It was so clear in the imagery of my toddler – I hold fast to far lesser things and strive for the impossible in my own power.  Had he just “let go” of his “full hands” he would have experienced the benefits of a delicious new lolly AND a trip to his beloved amusement park – but no.  He held fast to what he desired and what was comfortable.  Oh my, how often do I do the same?  Jesus desires to gift us with Himself.  What crumb encrusted sticks is He asking you to let go of so He can give you more of Him and the enable you with His power to fulfill the greatness of your calling?

Below are three ‘sticks’ that He has wrestled from my hands.

First was unfaithfulness.  Oh how often do I hold on to the things that keep me from gazing directly into His eyes? I can tell you this:  my fleshly line of vision, like my toddler’s, stares squarely at the horn.  I can’t see over the dashboard.  Yet that often doesn’t keep me from repeatedly trying to drive the SUV of my own life … in a leaky diaper … with a crumby, dirty stick. Oh how often I replace Him with the things of life.  What a slow process these past few years of having them wrested away from me.  How thankful I am for a Savior that cares enough about me to continue to fight for me – the Victorious Warrior in my midst (Zephaniah 3:17). 

What are you holding on to that is obscuring your direct line of vision to Jesus, the things that interrupt His best for you?  [Tweet “In my own life the easiest things to give up were not the most costly.”] The more costly were so intertwined with my heart that He needed to break it over and over again with His masterful hands to surgically remove them.  Thank God for the gentleness of the Master’s touch.  No doubt painful, but as He reminds us in Hebrews 12:5-6, He disciplines the ones He loves.  Truly understanding that He will NEVER act outside of my best interests, I am then able to more easily trust the motives of the Master – allowing Him to remove those deep, dark distractions that keep me from His loving gaze.  

Sisters, I encourage you to plumb the depths of your heart for the “dirty sticks” of unfaithfulness that you are clutching.  Can you ask Him to help you be honest about them?  Can you, as painful as it is, relinquish them – or will it take the repeated wresting of His hands on your heart before they can be let go?

My second “crumby stick” was unbelief.  Life’s early experiences laid a foundation of mistrust. It was safer to stare at the horn and drive my own life than to relinquish it totally to yet another who would betray sacred trust – no matter how faithful and safe He appeared to be.  This stick was stuck in my hand for what seemed like EVER – truth is, there still are a few crumbs of control stuck to my fingers!  Here is what I’m learning about the stick of unbelief. 

It really is an accurate measure of control.  We carry and use it to draw imaginary images that mask our insecurities.  I loved being known as the “Mom who had it all together” – perfect house, kids, family, life.  I loved homeschooling, my leadership rolls, board positions, creating 501c3’s  — all in the name of God’s will.  And a lot of it was.  

However, I continued to ignore the underlying ugly. I used my stick of unbelief to cover it, control it, and then paint a picture of Monet’s Water Lilies while ignoring the mounting garbage heap that was accumulating in the corner of the frame.   It took a long time and at a precious price for me to learn that He desired to take the stick of unbelief (control) and replace it with contentment in Himself.  I often liken it to Mary’s oil.  This unbelief has cost me nearly everything I have, as did her precious perfume.  As I learn to lay that unbelief at His feet, and surrender it as a gift of honor, He will be faithful to honor me in return – with more of Himself and His blessing.  Therein, I am supremely content  –  with less material wealth than I have ever had, but with the most of Him that I have ever allowed myself to experience. 

Sisters, how does your stick of unbelief present itself in your life?  How are you wielding it?

Lastly, there was a small but powerful” crumby stick” of unforgiveness.  While smaller in appearance than the others, it was definitely made of oak, and very hard.  I needed to realign my thinking in regard to the concept of forgiveness to plumb it more accurately with its biblical meaning.  Having always been taught that forgiveness was non-optional for a healthy spiritual maturity, I realized that I had been actually letting go of offenses and perpetrators too quickly without processing through properly – forgive and forget was the message I had received from some well-intentioned mentors.  

[Tweet “Th e problem is you can’t forget, and I believe we do a disservice to ourselves when we try.”] In my case my concept of forgiveness looked more like  “stuffing” the offense in the name of righteousness.  That, unfortunately, left a bigger stick of anger in its place – which led me into some ugly places.  I let my perpetrators “off the hook” too easily without giving the situations their “due diligence.”

 I never gleaned the fields of those horrific experiences to look for the lessons I was supposed to be learning from them.  That left the door open for those experiences to be repeated at different times and to different degrees in life – all in the name of “forgiveness”.  

That left me to take that “crumby stick” of false forgiveness and wield it against myself.  I took the hits in the form of regret and shame.  Oh how often I thought, “Why am I repeating these destructive habits?”  Or I would fall prey to the ever debilitating lie of the enemy, “How could I ever be used by God after THAT?” 

Honestly, I still struggle with laying this stick down.  What I am beginning to understand is that the concept of forgiveness is a constant process that I need to choose to partake in daily.  It is not a “one and done” deal.  I’m learning that Christ’s love and my own regret and shame vie for the same space in my heart -but they are not able to coexist.  Oh but my Gentle Savior -as He reminds me in John 14:27 He longs to exchange His peace as I give Him my worldly painful processing on the path to true forgiveness.

What I am thankful for is the fact that while I still have the tendency to want to cling, I am learning that I can with increasing confidence learn to let go and cling to His hand and His gaze.  Truly, they are priceless – nothing compares.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the One I love. 

And that toddler … he no longer runs around in a leaky diaper, but he did bid me to “get in his car” last May as I moved him across country after college graduation.  What a privilege to watch and to learn of His unfailing patience as we let go of our “little lives” and “crumby sticks”  and see that He truly is faithful to accomplish the good works which He began.

Friends, what is God asking you to let go of to make room for what he has to give you instead?


  1. Nancy on April 2, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    What God has been telling me to let go of, are the feelings, the experiences, the responsibilities of my loved ones.

    Gal 6:4-5: pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

    When I do not allow my loved ones to have their own experiences, then I rob us both of being responsible for our own conduct.

    These habits are deeply engrained and just when I think that I have healed, there is another damaged layer underneath.

    I must trust God for His timing in my sanctification.

    • JoAnn on April 3, 2021 at 10:16 am

      I agree, Nancy. Allowing my adult children to live their own lives, make their decisions, and have their own experiences in Christ has been challenging for me. They want me to be “just Mom,” and not their spiritual mentor or counselor. I got that message loud and clear from my 16 year old daughter who is now in her 50s. My role now is to pray.

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