This is message #4 in our sermon series, The Faith-FULL Life.
In December of 2005, Tracinda Foxe’s apartment building in the Bronx caught on fire. With flames quickly engulfing her third floor bedroom, Tracinda, holding her one-month old son, was forced to contemplate the unthinkable.
Felix Vazquez, a Housing Authority employee and catcher on a local softball team, saw her from the street below and told her to let go of the baby and that he would catch him. Against every instinct to hold and protect her son, she let go and watched him tumble three stories into the waiting arms of Felix Vasquez.
Thankfully, Tracinda was rescued and reunited with her child. When asked about the painful decision to drop her baby from the window, she just prayed, “God, save my son.”[i]
Even if it is not from a burning window, at some point, every parent is faced with that prayer, and faced with the decision to let go.
But letting go is so counterintuitive?
However, what if letting go, and letting God be God, is one of the secrets of freedom, peace and joy? Nevertheless, letting go is easier said than done.
In fact, it is the challenge of letting go that we see in Exodus 2:1-10. The place is Egypt, and the year, 1526 B.C. By this time, the Israelites have lived in Egypt for hundreds of years, since the days of Joseph in the late 1800’s B.C. They were a favored people back then, just a small, but growing clan of Abraham’s descendants. But now, that clan has become numerous, and is perceived as a threat by the present Pharaoh, who issues a law that every male Hebrew child born should be thrown into the Nile River to die.
For any parent in that context, holding on would have been…
I. A Natural Instinct (vv. 1-2)
1 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, (Later we learn that the man’s name was Amram and the woman was named, Jochebed) 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.
Jochebed responds as any mother would. Protecting her son from danger was pure instinct. She wasn’t about to let him go. Rather, she would hold on to him as tightly as she could. For her, holding on to him meant hiding him. But there came a point when she couldn’t hide him any longer.
The same is true with us. There comes a point when we just can’t protect our children from the sadness, pain and grief and influences of living on a sin-wrecked planet. There comes a time when they will have to make their own choices – choices that may not be what we would choose and choices that might lead to trouble and even heartache. And so to protect them, we resist letting go.
But it’s not just our children that we hide.
Some of us have been living in hiding for years. Not literally, of course. We hide emotionally, or relationally, afraid of what people might think if our secret sins were discovered, or something from our past. It may be that God is calling you today to let go of those fears and live in light of the cross, believing that all of your sin and failure has been nailed there and you bear it no more – that in Jesus you are fully forgiven and unreservedly accepted by the Father as a beloved son or daughter.
Because of grace we can be honest – not just about our past, but about our present failure. We are able to admit that, because of the remaining sin nature, we are all capable of the most heinous sin – as believers. Nothing should really shock us. If we can admit that, and let go of our need to hide, not only will grace begin to be real, it will begin to change us, and we will experience a greater freedom, peace and joy that we’ve ever known, because we don’t have to hide anymore. I can be the big sinner who has an even bigger Savior in Jesus.
This is where we need to understand…
II. The Process of Letting Go (vv. 3-4)
3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Preparing that basket must have been an excruciatingly painful process. Can you imagine? In Jochebed’s mind, letting go meant exposing her son to certain death, whether by exposure and starvation or as a meal for a croc. In her mind, weaving that basket was weaving her son’s coffin. After all, she was so distraught with the prospect of letting Moses go that she couldn’t watch. After placing him in the river, she turned away. Only his sister watched, and from a distance.
This is how the process of letting go feels – it feels like death. No wonder we resist letting go.
Today, the parent who refuses to let go is called a “helicopter parent,” because they are always hovering over their young adult children, constantly communicating and reminding in order to keep them from making mistakes or missing class. Reminding them to take their vitamins and change their underwear.
But what if this kind of weaving, not of a basket, but of outcomes is not healthy for a child’s development? What if preventing consequences actually restricts their growth into adulthood. What if easing the struggle prohibits them from having to work out and put into practice what they have been taught in their childhood.
What if they fall down! It may help us to remember that falling down is part of learning to walk. And let’s admit it. Falling down hurts. It can be ugly and bloody. Sometimes it can leave a scar.
Therefore, expect the process of letting go control of your children’s lives to feel like a kind of death – a loss of control that ironically, I’m convinced, will result in a new freedom, peace and joy for the parent who is able to let go.
Of course, the process of letting go applies to almost every area of life, including…
- When we decide to give more generously, whether to the church or to a special need. Letting go of money feels like death in a certain way. Feels like loss. But again, what if there is the promise of freedom, peace and joy in letting go financially?
- The process of letting go applies to self-righteousness, too, where we let go of anything we think to be morally meritorious about ourselves. Remember, the gospel is not for good people, but humble people. There is a hymn called Rock of Ages that many of you know. The 3rd stanza says,
Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace: Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die.
What an image! Being stripped down to nothing but grace. Clothed in no good work of your own; only the righteousness of Jesus. Spiritual life begins where self-righteousness ends – and where self-righteousness ends freedom, peace and joy grow.
So, the process of letting go feels like death, but leads to freedom and launches onto…
III. The River of God’s Providence (vv. 5-9)
5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him.
There is no way that Jochebed could have orchestrated or foreseen the unfolding of these events. She just let go, and at just the right time, Pharaoh’s daughter, with her entourage, arrives at the river bank to bathe.
What happens is that the God who is sovereign over river currents, providentially directed the basket where it would be seen by the Egyptian princess. Moses older sister, Miriam, knowing the edict for male Hebrew children, may have been ready to plead for Moses’ life, but Pharaoh’s daughter had pity on the baby, and rather than enforcing Egyptian law, she showed mercy. In an unexpected and remarkable twist, Jochebed ends up with her son again – all because she was willing to let go.
Easy for us to say now, though. We know how the story plays out. We see the ending that Jochabed couldn’t see. We see Moses grow up to become the great deliverer of the Israelites from slavery!”
But Jochebed couldn’t see that. Yet she still let go.
What if we could see the ending of our own stories, and the lives of our children? What if we could see how God was going to work all things for his glory and our and their good. Even if we couldn’t see it, what if we could trust the one who could – the one who controls the currents, even when those currents led to turbulent waters, rapids, waterfalls and other perils?
Maybe if we could see his hands on the wheel, we’d be able to let go.
The reality is that whitewater is part of God’s river of providence. We can’t protect our children from the rapids or avoid them ourselves. God has designed those times as part of the river. And so, we let go, trusting God as God on the river of providence.
And yet, letting go isn’t something we do once. In verse 10, we see that…
IV. The Cycle Continues (v. 10)
10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses,b saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
Jochebed has to let go of Moses again. I can’t decide whether it would have been easier to let Moses go a second time or not. The first time felt like death. But by letting Moses go, she had learned to trust God in a way that she hadn’t known before.
So, maybe the second letting go would have been incredibly difficult, but not as emotionally devastating as the first time.
One thing we can learn from this is that there will be continuous opportunities for us to let go, and let God be God. This is how we grow spriritually and get stronger, not by holding on, but by letting go.
- From the time they leave for kindergarten to college and beyond, we will have to continually let go of our children and trust God with them.
- We will continually have to trust God as our provider as we give week after week.
- As we will continue to let go of our failures and sin, we will have to continue to believe the promise of the gospel, that like Pharaoh’s daughter had mercy on Moses, God has shown mercy toward us. He could have enforced the law on us, but instead, upon a cross, the Father enforced the demands of the law on his own son in our place, so that we could receive mercy and even be adopted into the royal family – not into the royal family of Egypt, but the family of God.
Now, I know that to some of you letting go sounds like abdicating responsibility. That is not what we are saying. We are called to provide for our children. To teach them to make their own beds, do their own homework, and clean up their own dishes, because one day they will be required to buy their own groceries and pay their own rent. We are called to make restitution to those against whom we sin. We repent in person and make right what we’ve broken.
We are called to be responsible. Letting go simply means that we let God be God, whether as our Provider, Redeemer, or Protector.
There is a prayer that has helped me understand this. It’s a prayer that is recited at every AA meeting called the serenity prayer, and it goes like this: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change [for these things, we need to let go], courage to change the things we can [which usually means dealing with ourselves], and wisdom to know the difference.”[ii]
Where do you need to let go? Only you know the answer, and you do know the answer. You probably will not have to pray or think for long to know where holding on is keeping you from know the freedom, peace and joy that is available to you by letting go.
Maybe you are at the place where you could use some serenity and peace. Maybe you are ready to experience the freedom of letting go, and letting God be God.
If you are ready to confess Jesus as your Provider, Redeemer and Protector, let me invite you pray a simple prayer with me as we close. Just repeat silently after me.
PRAYER. Dear God, I am ready to let go and experience the freedom of letting you be God. Whether for the first time or the ten-thousandth time, I come now to trust you as my merciful Savior and my sovereign Father. Like Pharaoh’s daughter with Moses, you have rescued me from the waters of judgement and have adopted me as your own. May I now live my life, knowing that I can let go because you will never let me go. So God, be my provider, my redeemer and my protector, now and always. For I pray in the glorious name of my Savior, Jesus. Amen.
[i] Catherine Donaldson-Evans, “The Good News of 2005,” Foxnews.com (12-30-05); submitted by Bryan Latchaw, Oskaloosa, Iowa
[ii] The original “Serenity Prayer” was conceived in a little stone cottage in Heath, Massachusetts by Reinhold Niebuhr and, per his daughter, was written like this:
“God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” (From “The Serentiy Prayer” by Elisabeth Sifton)