This guest post was written by Ronna Detrick.
A wise woman tells me she gets this strong sense that I am unable to really let go; like I’m afraid of letting my hair down.
I hear her words, feel the lump in my throat (a marker that truth has been spoken), and in my mind’s eye can already see the story, her story, the one I need to hear.
The town harlot. Marginalized, unseen, shamed, and scorned. And not one bit of that matters. Not to her. She leaves the margins and enters the fray – walking into a room full of men – the insiders, the censors, the judges, the jury. They look up from their feast, reclining, interrupted by the shock of her presence. Head held high, she ignores every incredulous face, sidelong glance, and whisper of contempt. There’s only one goal, one guest, one man that matters. No amount of shame or scorn will stop her. She will be seen.
And she will not bow or scrape. Not today. She will stand. Eye-to-eye, face-to-face, toe-to-toe with this God-man, this healer, this miracle worker, this Love enfleshed. Jesus.
So she did. Time slowed. Din silenced. Shame dissipated. Scorn dissolved. Only the two of them existed.
And maybe this is what enabled her next move: the visceral and complete awareness that this moment and this man were all that mattered, that she mattered.
She let go.
She wept. So much that she rained down tears on his feet. Then, in front of all her accusers – those leaders, law enforcers, and rule-followers – she let down her hair. Literally. She opened an expensive perfume, an aromatic oil, the fragrance of which filled the room and confused the senses. She poured it on his feet, mixed it with her tears, and dried them with her hair – her let-down hair.
She let go. Of ramifications, risk, (broken) rules, created ruckus.
She let go. Of their responses: unheard of! disallowed! scandalous! extravagant!
She let go. Of everything.
Because she knew she could. Because she knew she was safe. Because she knew she was seen. Because she knew she could not be stopped. Because she knew her own heart would not lead her astray. Because she knew …
And in letting go, she was received, held, caught up, embraced – every bit of her. Expressed emotion, embodied offering, exposed heart – all allowed, welcomed, and honored.
He spoke of her with such fierce love – condemning those who had not offered him even the smallest portion of what she had; who had stingily gripped their pride, their power, their position; who refused to let her anywhere near them (at least in daylight), let alone into these inner chambers; men who refused to let go. “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
But that has not happened. Not really.
Why would I think my story (or my telling of hers) would be any different?
I am not like her. I sit tight and hold back. I clench my teeth, my fists, the muscles in my neck. I won’t enter the room. I won’t take the risk. I won’t bear the ramifications. I brace myself for the scorn and shame. Because I’m convinced it’s coming.
I refuse to let go.
Letting go has meant being wanton, irresponsible, and foolish. Letting go has gotten me into trouble. Letting go has been what I’ve done when I have not held onto myself, and ultimately compromised myself. Letting go isn’t prudent. Letting go isn’t smart. Letting go might get me hurt. Letting go has gotten me hurt.
What does this mean: “I can’t let go”? What am I holding on to? What am I unwilling to release? What do I fear will happen if I do? What do I grip so tightly? Why do I feel like I balance on tip-toes while a noose chafes my neck? What room won’t I enter? What faces will I not face? What old tapes play? What taboos am I unwilling to break? What tears do I refuse to shed? What expense do I spare? And all the while, what words and stories am I unable or unwilling to speak, to write, to live?
All these questions exhaust me. I dwell on the margins instead of entering the fray.
The wise woman says to me, “It feels like oppression. Sacrificing words because someone made you feel like you’re not good enough or you don’t fit in or you’re too different. You’ve got to let go. Reflect on where those messages of perfectionism and being outside the norm come from. Then you can contain that energy and get out of your own way. The floodgates will open.”
Even this exhausts me (though it rings true). So much time spent trying to figure everything out, to understand my own psyche, to analyze my own stories, to endlessly push against the obstacles that refuse to let me pass.
She sings to me. She seduces. “You know my story is yours. You know the rooms that are yours to enter. You know the courage required. You know the focus, the intent, the determination with which you must move. You know of the whispered contempt, the shouted scorn (or at least your fear of such). You know who waits for you at the head of the table. You know of the tears you’d shed, the emotion you’d express, the offering you’d give, if your heart was exposed – and received. You know what’s true: this God allows, welcomes, and honors you. You know…”
I see her outstretched hand, her dazzling smile, her yet-glistening tears. “Here’s what I know,” she says. “You are extravagant. You are safe. You cannot be stopped. You know this. And you’re not alone. I am with you.”
Letting go is not falling apart.
It’s not falling, at all. Rappel, free-fall, skydive, stop worrying about the net beneath, leap, spread your Phoenix wings, fly. Of course.
Of course. I’ve written of her before. I know this! It was in letting go that she was received, held, caught up, embraced – every bit of her. Expressed emotion, embodied offering, exposed heart – all allowed, welcomed, and honored.
Her story and mine (and yours, as well) is about being a woman who risks and believes and has faith – in herself; who stands eye-to-eye, face-to-face, toe-to-toe with the Divine and then makes the extravagant choice to pour out everything she has – because she can do no less.
Letting go is not less. It is more – the most – the best – and all I can ever hope to do; it is the fullest expression of who I am.
(And you, as well.)
May it be so.
Image derived from Feast of Simon the Pharisee by Peter Paul Rubens via Wikimedia.
About Ronna Detrick
Ronna Detrick, M.Div., is a writer, speaker, and spiritual director (though she prefers being called a Sacred Conversationalist). Her greatest passion is retelling, reimagining, and redeeming the ancient sacred stories of women…and those of women today! Find out more about Ronna at ronnadetrick.com.