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Relinquishment: What Does It Really Mean To "Let Go"?

The Turning Point For Family And Friends... to "give up" someone we love.

What Is Relinquishment? One of the most frustrating pieces of advice one Christian can give another is to "just give your problems up to God." Most people aren't sure what "giving up" really means. Three basic dictionary definitions of "relinquishment" are: 1. to surrender a right 2. to put aside a plan 3. to loose one's hold on something or someone This lays out what we're talking about in more concrete terms. The kind of relinquishment we're dealing with usually involves all three of these actions! 

Who Is Affected By Relinquishment?  All of us in some way are involved in relinquishment. Daily we must make choices. Things that separate us from God must be given up. We can understand this when it concerns things, but when it comes to people, there is often confusion as to our Christian responsibility. Also, relinquishment is so difficult because it often involves someone we are closest to, just the last person we would want to let go of. Hannah knew the pain of relinquishment. She was a godly woman who prayed continually for a son, vowing she would dedicate him to the Lord's service. God granted her prayer when she gave birth to Samuel. Hannah brought him to the temple, saying, "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord." (I Samuel 1:27,28). That must have been a very painful relinquishment for a mother who had spent her whole life longing for a child! But Hannah's priorities were in order, and she knew to whom Samuel belonged. Relinquishment is never easy -- people who say that it is probably haven't yet experienced it! It is something that is meaningful only in the context of deeply committed relationships.

Is Relinquishment A Form Of Punishment?  When God asks us to let go of someone close to us, the pain of letting go may feel like punishment -- but it's NOT!. Relinquishment is not the act of God removing from our lives someone we're sinfully attached to. Real "giving up" is a mature decision we make in response to God's request. Abraham saw his surrender of Isaac as an act of worship (Genesis 22:5). When God asks this of us, He is testing our loyalty, perfecting our ability to trust Him with that which is most precious to us. The fact that God requests us to relinquish someone is an encouraging sign that He knows we already have established a relationship of trust with Him. He doesn't ask us to relinquish above the level of our capacity.

How Does Relinquishment Differ From Abandonment? Relinquishment is "giving someone up;" abandonment is "giving up on someone." When we let go of someone we love, we stop taking responsibility for them, but we don't stop fulfilling our responsibilities to them. In one counseling session, we talked with parents whose Christian son was active in the gay lifestyle. He was content being gay but had difficulty keeping work, and his parents frequently bailed him out financially. When they relinquished their boy, the financial support stopped, though they continued to communicate their love to him in other ways.

What Are Some Aspects Of Relinquishment?

• Facing Our Limitations.
Eventually we reach the point of acknowledging our own helplessness in relating to our loved one, realizing we've reached the limits of our human love and wisdom. We are ready to acknowledge our need to let God take over. 

• Acknowledging God's ownership.
Like Hannah, we realize that the person we love belongs to God -- not to us. Though we may have been entrusted with a position of care and responsibility toward them, they ultimately belong to God and are His responsibility.

• Letting Go Of Our Expectations.
We may have had many things we hoped would be fulfilled by the person we love: hopes that our children would marry and raise families; exciting plans for the future we made with our husband or wife when we married. And it's certainly not wrong for us to have these hopes! But part of relinquishment is coming to terms with the fact that these things may not happen. We surrender our expectations, realizing that God will still bring fulfillment to our lives, though maybe not in the way we had planned.

• Giving to someone the same freedom God gives us: responsibility for one's own choices.
This is perhaps the most difficult part of relinquishment, allowing our loved ones to face the consequences of their own actions, even if they experience pain and tragedy in the process. It is important to realize that this does not reveal a lack of love on our part. As his children, God gives to each one of us that same freedom of choice, and His relationship to us is one of perfect love.

• Giving Up Efforts To Control Circumstances.
In a very practical way, we must begin to truly trust in the work of the Holy Spirit. Coming away from homosexuality requires a vision and determination that can only come from God. He alone can bring conviction of sin and a desire for change. We must begin to act on what we know is true: that God can work out someone's situation better than anything we could come up with. When Do We Relinquish Someone? Though we may have friends admonishing us to "let go" of someone, God is the only one who knows when we are actually capable of doing this. Though we may be continually "giving" someone to the Lord in our prayers, there will come a specific time when God will ask us to let go, and that is when the anointing and strength will be there to do it. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it wasn't when his son was a newborn baby, but when he was probably a teenager. The request came when Abraham was ready, after he had seen God's faithfulness proven in many other circumstances. What Is The Purpose Of Relinquishment? Why does God ask us to relinquish someone we love? From our finite perspective, we wonder, "Could He possibly be insecure about our love for Him? Why does God require such drastic proof of our commitment?" The answers to these questions come only as we grow in the knowledge of God's character, realizing that everything He asks of us is for our benefit. The purpose of relinquishment becomes more clear as we look at the results in our lives: increased security and greater freedom.

• Security - Relinquishment tests the foundation on which our lives are based.
Jesus talks abut setting our affections on things above, but most of us will admit our affections are pretty earthbound. We care deeply about our children, our families, our friends and our jobs. These are legitimate concerns! When God says, He wants us to love Him above all others, He isn't implying that we should be careful not to love others too much. But He wants us, above all, to have our ultimate commitment to Him and to have our ultimate security in Him. The world we live in is unstable. The people we are most about are not unshakable pillars. Security in God is not an option. It is a total necessity if our lives are to be founded on something solid. If our securities have become fastened too tightly on something shakeable, relinquishment loosens our hold on the temporal and places our grasp back on the eternal and unshakable.

• Freedom.
When we are able to release the one we are so concerned about to God's care, we are freed from an "emotional roller coaster" type of existence where our moods are dependent on our loved one's actions. One mother of a gay son knew relinquishment had taken place when she no longer sank into depression every time her son mentioned his involvement in the gay lifestyle. This is not to say we are totally unaffected by the actions of the other person, just that we are not controlled by them. Another benefit of relinquishment is that our minds and hearts are freed to focus on other things and to care about other people. When we are so wrapped up with one individual, other relationships and responsibilities may be neglected. "Letting go" enables us to engage in new pursuits with joy and enthusiasm. We are freed from the compulsion to try and bring that person "back to the Lord," and we are released from a sense of guilt and responsibility for their choices. Although we may not realize it, such pressures from us may actually have the opposite effect of driving that person further from God, rather than further from his sin. Relinquishment frees us to love that person in a more relaxed, non-possessive way, allowing them the freedom to choose God for themselves without the pressure of our expectations.

This article is reprinted by permission from Metanoia Ministries, P.O. Box 33039, Seattle, WA 98133.