The Sacrament of Life: Waiting and Letting Go

mother touching nose to baby

Sacrament: a sacred ritual. To my way of thinking, life on this planet begins and ends with the sacraments of waiting and letting go. 

First comes letting go in the act of procreation. And then begins the sacrament of waiting, and waiting, and waiting. But it is not idle waiting as embryo becomes fetus becomes unborn child. It is instead an explosion of growing, dividing, proliferating cells. A symphony of organization as body systems develop and differentiate to form a new person, an infinitely precious infant, one of God’s image bearers.

            When the time is right and all systems are go, the mother’s body forces the infant from the security of the womb into the larger world, where it is welcomed and swaddled, fed, and nurtured. 

            Thus begins a lifetime of waiting, not idly but with energy, purpose, and focus. Parents waiting for their child to reach important milestones—to walk and talk and grow. Little kids waiting to be big kids, to go to school, to drive. Longing to graduate, to leave home. Yearning to find love. To create a family. 

Although normal and necessary, neither waiting nor letting go is easy. Ask any mother sending her child off to school for the first time, or parents seeing their young adult children leave for college, marriage, or careers. Then awaiting the return, at the end of a school day or semester. Anticipating holidays or family reunions.

Ask someone who is working toward a career or life goal and wondering when things will come together. or leaving behind one job or location with its attendant friends, family, and lifestyle, to venture in a new direction. If all goes well the rituals of waiting and letting go produce happiness, fulfillment, and personal growth. 

However, life does not always progress smoothly. At times it is necessary to ride the waves of grief that arise from loss, the shame of abuse, the guilt from poor choices, addiction, and thoughtless words and deeds. In these situations, the process of releasing can be excruciating. It may be necessary to give up the idea that you can manage everything on your own and reach out to faith, family, friends, or professionals for help.

The end of life as we know it sets waiting and letting go in sharp relief. The inevitable changes of aging often mean relinquishing a satisfying vocation, a favorite pastime, or a cherished home. Most wrenching is confronting your own mortality and awaiting the inevitable death of a loved one in the final farewell. 

It is the sacrament of life; waiting and letting go.

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