“Let it go! Let it go!” Elsa of Disney’s “Frozen” belts as she gives up the fight. She has been living in fear, hiding and struggling to control her powers. Now, in this dramatic moment, she throws off fear and yields to her true identity. AND SHE HAS FREEDOM! But a few stanzas later Elsa continues, “It’s time to see what I can do/To test the limits and break through/No right, no wrong, no rules for me/I’m free,” and we start to question this letting go. Elsa finds freedom but loses her sister and community. She is liberated from pressure but also from a sense of right and wrong. She finds her “true self,” but she is alone. Her story isn’t complete.
But even though the movie doesn’t leave Elsa there, free and alone, parts of our culture (and parts of me) identify with Elsa’s impulse to let go a little too closely. We don’t want to be held back or controlled. We don’t want to sit or wait or submit. We want to be liberated to find our “true selves.” But what would it look like for me to throw off my inhibitions? You all would be babysitting my ½ dozen illegitimate children and I would be at a bar. While I’m sure my children would be precious, this choice for me would be highly destructive.
So then what do we do with this pent up desire? This need for release? Yoga answers with a kind of centered detachment. (By the way, I practice yoga regularly and will happily explain my choice to do so any time but that’s for another blog.) In yoga the phrase, “let it go,” takes on a different meaning. At the beginning of practice yogis are invited to take notice of their frustrations, fears, anger, hopes, and to let everything that isn’t in the room go. We are invited to be present for an hour to nothing but our bodies and each other. We leave our vulnerabilities outside of the room. Whereas Elsa throws caution to the wind, yogis can gain peace from finding calm apart from circumstance. We observe what is happening to us and our lives with a serenity. But what is the basis of that serenity? Why can we be allowed to be at peace when we ourselves and those we love are suffering?
Elsa’s goal and the goal of some yoga practices are the same: “Find freedom. Find peace. Throw off the weight that oppresses you. Maybe it is fear of what others think, or maybe it is a bad day at work. Be free, and let it go.”
Christianity seems to have a similar exhortation:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6 Let go of your worries.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:18-19 Let go of the past.
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” -Hebrews 12:1 Let. It. Go.
But whereas Elsa’s theme song (applied directly to our own lives) might urge us to throw off responsibilities and indulge in our desires and yoga could be interpreted to encourage detachment, letting go through the gospel means something different: It means we are to rest. Rest in the completely perfect love and provision of a personal God who loves us and is with us.
God thought us up, made us up, sewed up our synapses and our hearts, and he knows our personalities and needs. He knows we screw up. Christ has striven for you. Christ has purchased your rest. Christ has made it to where you don’t HAVE to change your circumstances to be free. When we feel restricted there often is a right and a wrong and it means something to follow God. But there is comfort in that selfless sacrifice as we commune with him (and we must learn to hear his voice). And Christ has made it to where we should NOT detach ourselves from experiencing the pain or hope in our lives. We have a personal God right there, waiting to hear about it and love us through it.
In yoga I practice letting go as the yoga instructor guides me to do. But when I let go what is troubling me, I picture myself giving the situation to my Father who cares for me or to Jesus who died for me.
“You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” –John 8:32
The truth is Jesus. When we let go of things we have our hands grasped around, we hand them to him, and he looks us in the eyes and tell us he is going to make something beautiful out of it. So we can in faith rest, and we can let it go.