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The freedom in letting go

Our world of consumption thrives on an insatiable hunger for security. Because deep down, everyone has a sense of how fragile and fleeting their lives are. This fear calls for security. People seek stability by holding on to everything possible. They want to have something tangible at their disposal. Like a dry sponge, they soak up everything that seems to give them stability and security.

This can lead to people defining themselves more and more in terms of what they have and can hold on to: House and car, job and social position, money and power, relationships with other people and much more.

The credo of this attitude is: My property guarantees my identity. This can also apply to intellectual property: I can listen to a lecture in such a way that I acquire as much material as possible and accumulate knowledge. What I hear can become my property, which is defended.

Our human relationships can also take the form of possession: I love the other like an object. I lay claim to the beloved like a right of possession that I can sue for.

Even religious faith can be lived in the manner of a possession. You then have your god or a dogma in your pocket. People cling to fixed ideas about God. Faith becomes a collection of concepts through which one gets a grip on God.

The prophet Jeremiah finds an image for this: the relationship with God is like a spring that wants to bubble up anew every moment. We humans, on the other hand, want to live from cisterns. However, these cisterns are cracked and cannot hold the water (cf. Jer 2:13). Cisterns are used to store water supplies that are available and under control. A spring, on the other hand, is a source that gushes forth from itself. What flows to us in a relationship as if from a primordial spring - affection and love - cannot be stored in reservoirs. There is no such thing as canned friendship.

Love is a living source that springs forth anew from moment to moment. I cannot turn the tap on or off at will to control the flow. I can only hold my hands under the flowing water - in the hope that this spring will not be exhausted. Only God is the source of living water that never runs dry. However, when people are afraid that God might withdraw his attention again, they want to play it safe and collect the living river in basins and dam it up.

The basic attitude of having, however, does not allow for a living relationship between me and what I have. Rather, things have and occupy me. And if my sense of identity depends on my possessions, then the question arises: what will become of me if I lose my possessions?

What can give us humans inner stability?

We find identity above all when we feel that we owe ourselves to a great love: I am someone because someone else likes and values me. If I can believe in this kind of love, I don't have to secure my ego through others, but experience myself as valuable. The self-esteem I feel is experienced as an inner source from which self-confidence and the ability to relate flow.

Anyone who can believe that they are wanted and loved by God does not need an external corset to support their identity. For this is given to them from within: "I am someone because God loves me." The great challenge remains to live this gift in its dynamics and never turn it into a static possession. This means letting go of myself again and again in order to receive myself anew. It's like breathing: if you hold your breath in fear, you will suffocate. In order to live, you have to let your breath flow. We can breathe in and then have to let go of the breath again, trusting that we can draw in fresh air.

Anyone who, out of fear that God's love could dry up, tries to get hold of God and secure his love by contract destroys the relationship. This is because a relationship only remains alive if the partners give each other gifts in a free-flowing way. It requires trust that love is renewed every moment.

If I see myself as a creature of God, this means that God always and constantly brings about and sustains my existence. Who we really are is given to us by God and we cannot and do not need to hold on to or secure this gift. Rather, we can always receive it anew. Romano Guardini summarized this in a wonderful prayer:

"I constantly receive myself from your hand. This is my truth and my joy. Your eye is always looking at me and I live from this gaze, you my Creator and my salvation."

I am not what I have and hold on to, but what I constantly receive anew and continue to radiate with life.

(from the book: "Vom Segen der Zerbrechlichkeit" by Andreas Knapp)

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