“Letting Go of the Ball”
Psalm 139:1-4; 23-24
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting
In Jeremiah 33:3, we talked about putting the ball into God’s court as a way of releasing our burdens and concerns to the Lord. We acknowledged that we were stepping out on faith and believing that something would happen because we had put it in God’s hands and He promised to not only answer our prayer but show us great things that we could not even begin to imagine. To put the ball into God’s court is to release it; you must let it go.
However, the question arose: “What prevents us from trusting God for ourselves and handing over our concerns?” To ask that question is to examine ourselves and be willing to let the Holy Spirit escort us to the deep places of introspection. This is a type of prayer also.
My daughter was helping me organize my office and that including labeling, filing, and storing boxes in a closet in a way that I could easily see what each box held. But, before we could do that had to clear out the closet.
Each time I moved something, I questioned whether I needed it, why was I keeping it, or could someone else use it. The questioning sessions grew shorter as I realized that I was holding on to clothes that were too small, clothes that I wore once and gained weight before I had occasion to wear it again, and even clothes that still had the tag on them. Other things had sentimental value. Then there was the infamous rack of clothes that were being held until I could get back to a particular size. That was bad enough but there was another group of clothes that were in a holding pattern but should not have been. Those were the clothes that were so out of date, they were at the point of no return.
The closet also held bags of comforters, quilts and bedspreads that my daughter remembered from her early childhood. As we examined each piece, asked the hard questions and made painful decisions about letting things do, we threw out more and more. To make sure that I didn’t have a set back in a weak moment, my daughter put everything in the trunk of her car and carried it Arlington.
You see when we can’t let go, and we know we should, it is helpful to ask why we are holding on to these things. Our scripture today records King David asking God to search him. This same idea of being known by the Lord is also in 1 Chronicles 28:9 which says, “The Lord searches every mind and understands every plan and thought.” In other words, God is aware of every situation that we go through.
This is a very potent prayer request and is a prayer that is called “examen” and (pronounced – ig zāmen). There are two parts to this kind of prayer. The first part is the examen of consciousness. You are acutely aware of your surroundings including how God has been present to us during the day and how we have responded to that presence. We fail to remember that God is with us and wants to be with us. He wants to be where we are. Do you encounter the Lord during the day? Is God noticeably present to you during your everyday activities? It is a real revelation when you realize that everything you are saying, thinking, wishing, and even planning, God is aware of it because God is present.
To ask the Lord to search you is to ask the Lord to tell you about yourself. This is really a place of humility. And that is the second part of examen. It is when we uncover those areas in our lives that need cleansing, purifying, and healing. And it is this second aspect of examen that is within the context of our Scripture and prayer focus. To put the ball in God’s court you have to release it. We tend to hold on even though we know we should let it go.
First of all, Scripture reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Times change. There will be a new season in your life. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 we read, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. We cannot do the things that we did when we were twenty or even forty or fifty years old. There is a noticeable change in us. We would look ridiculous if we tried to do the things that we did at those ages. Just think of the clothes you used to wear, the shoes you wore, the way you had to live then; I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a redo of those days. There is a time and season for everything.
Secondly, give yourself permission to let go. Stop making excuses and finding reasons why you should hold onto something that you know needs to be released. People, places, and things change. Justifying holding onto hurts and pains only hurts you. Seldom are the people still around and if they are, they have gone on about their merry business and you are left holding the weight that keeps you bogged down in life. I encourage you to let it go, but if you can’t then ask yourself why it has such a hold on you.
When we fail to release the ball (whatever it may be) to God we dig ourselves a deep hole that prevents us from moving forward in peace. That thing or person has taken control of us. They have robbed us of countless blessings and joy because we keep holding on.
When we get the courage to examine ourselves, we permit the Holy Spirit to go with us on a journey of purification, sanctification, and healing. We are not left to our own devices. If that were so, some of us would still be beating ourselves up and thinking that we did something wrong.
What can we do, Pastor Sandi? First, learn to meditate on God’s word and accept His unconditional love for you. Think about how much He cares for you. Don’t forget that evil is very present in this world, but so is God. We must live among the messiness of this world, but it is the conscious presence of God that makes a path so that we can make our way to eternal life with Him.
Let us pray this prayer together as we prepare our hearts to be re-created and our spirits to be renewed.
“Precious Savior, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself and you in fullest measure. Amen.”