Listen, Learn, and Let Go (MJT Psalms 140-141)
I used to think the world was against me any time someone criticized a choice I made. Even if I asked for advice or wisdom on an issue, internally I would think what do they know anyway? They’re not living my life. They have no idea how to deal with my problems.
I made enemies of a lot of people who were just looking out for me, or who were trying to help me grow and see things from a different perspective. I saw criticism as attacks, differing opinions as judgment, and advice as antagonism. I spent a lot of time and energy at war with people in my mind.
And then I became a teacher.
Quickly I realized other people have answers I scoured my world for because they had experience and knowledge. Life is lived in patterns, finding those patterns and learning from people who come before is the trick to good teaching–and good living.
Psalm 140 is a call from the poet to God for protection and rescue from the evil one(s). There are real enemies in our lives, and I suspect the poet actually experienced true persecution, but really when you look at life objectively there is just one enemy causing conflict with lies and deceit every day. As I read from 140 to 141 I realized for me it is less about an external enemy, but the enemies I create in my mind. The ones who preach pride, stubbornness, and grudge-holding that keep me isolated and angry. These lessons in 141 reflect the answers to defeating the enemies of 140 in three simple steps: Listen, Learn, and Let go.
LISTEN (Psalm 141:1-2)
When you call for God to hear you, you can’t forget to listen to his response. And not only hear it but really listen. There is a difference. God doesn’t ignore our cries for help, but sometimes we don’t like the answer and that pride keeps us from moving forward in all our relationships. More importantly, it keeps us from the growth and plans God desires for us. Plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11) because he knows us, and knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13).
LEARN (Psalm 141:3-5)
Learning from our own past mistakes is easy. Learning from the wise people in our lives is the hard part of growing and leaning into the plans God has for us. God has no desire to see us in pain, and if we are honest, most often we create our own sticky situations by not listening and learning from those who have already been there, done that. In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon aptly observes there is nothing new under the sun. Boy was he right. The more time I spend watching teenagers ignore my (and other’s) advice, the more I see the truth in this statement. And I get it. I once ignored a lot of advice, but imagine what rich lives we could live from the get-go if only we lived Psalm 141:5! Life is lived in patterns; it’s seen in literature over and over again and if we pay attention we can see it in our own lives. A lesson I wished I’d learned earlier.
LET GO (Psalm 141:8-10)
The most important lesson we can listen and learn from is ultimately to let go of what is not in our control–which really is everything. The famous missionary and Bible teacher Oswald Chambers put it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:
To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his [or her] whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else.
Essentially, let go and let God! It’s funny how often we will cry out to God for something and then step in God’s way to try to grasp it for ourselves. Like Sarah (Genesis), to whom God promised a son, determined to fulfill the prophecy handed her maidservant to her husband. Sure, she got a son…sort of…but it created a whole mess of problems we still encounter in today’s world. *By the way, this is a pretty prominent theme in literature as well. See, patterns!*
Here’s my own example.
I have been asking God to meet my future husband for a long time. More than once I have asked God for direction and then decided, like Sarah, to take matters into my own hands. Why? Because I’m impatient. As a result, I have endured quite a few BAD internet dates. And I mean wishing you could crawl out the bathroom window bad. I have nothing against internet dating. In fact, I know quite a few people who have had success in meeting and marrying people they have met through one dating website or another. This knowledge has brought untold frustration and insecurities when nothing seemed to produce a similar success story in my own life.
And then I got so frustrated and exhausted, I was so broken I actually waited to hear from God (I know, I’m 32 years old, and I KNOW what I should do, but I don’t always do it. I’m human. Sorry to disappoint). Lo and behold, when I stopped to listen, I heard. One morning when I was cranky, sleep deprived, and annoyed by an internet match I really wanted to make work (the snarky comments about teachers in high school always being on their cell phones was really the straw that broke the camels back), I heard God speak.
Online dating is not the answer.
Aw man! Really, God? Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?! Do you know how much time, energy and money I have wasted?
Um, yeah. I did. You just weren’t listening. When are you going to learn to let go and let ME be God?
Ouch. Great question. I didn’t really like this answer, and complained about it more than once (okay…so what IS THE ANSWER? Crickets. Sigh. Okay). But soon I got confirmation from two separate sources that these were, in fact, God’s words for me.
So I put on my big girl panties and did my best to listen, learn, and let go. But I am a work in progress (as are we all), which is why the big BUT in Psalm 141:8 holds so much promise for me. I keep doing these things Lord: doubting, fighting, crying out…
But my eyes are fixed on you, o Sovereign Lord…
And when this is true for me, when we truly fix our eyes on HIM and not on ourselves. When we listen, learn, let go, and let God work “we pass by in safety” all the days of our lives, no matter what our future might be.