While there is much evidence to the contrary, I am convinced that humans are actually quite remarkable. We have this enormous capacity for courage, hope, and trust. If you ever doubt this, just
spend some time watching trapeze artists.
There they are, way up in the sky, swinging back and forth in perfect rhythm. And then there’s that moment, when the flyer releases her hold on the bar and flings herself across the air, only to be caught by the strong hands of the catcher. There is nothing more courageous than that trapeze artist in the moment of letting go, releasing the hold of that bar, trusting that those arms will catch them.
One of the practices of Christian people is the art of letting go. It’s at the heart of being Easter people. We tend to hold on tight, not wanting to change, afraid of what comes next. But we are followers of the Risen Christ, people of new life and open tombs.
On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene was in the garden, blinded by her grief. As she talks to the gardener, she realizes this man in front of her was Jesus. So she runs toward him, arms open. But Jesus says to her, “don’t hold on to me, but go and tell our friends what you’ve seen.” He tells her not to hold on, but to let go. He urges her not to cling to the body of Jesus, but instead to claim the new life he brings through his followers and unknown road ahead.
Letting go is a practice of the Christian life. Anyone who has ever wept like Mary Magdalene knows it’s what we do when we grieve. As we mourn, we let go of our loved ones, and figure out new ways to love them, now that they are no longer living among us. This letting go is a way to find new life, keeping memories and love close, but stepping forward into a new day.
But there’s other letting go, too. Maybe we let go of angers that poison us, or the fear that keeps us from living. Maybe we can let go of a bottle that numbs us, or the piles of material stuff that bury us.
As Easter people, our joy comes from letting go of those things that keep us from living. The writer Henri Nouwen spent some time with a pair of German trapeze artists, the Flying Rodleigh Brothers. One of the brothers, the flyer, told him, “the secret is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me to safety . . . A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.”
For Nouwen – this was not a lesson in acrobatics, but faith. We have a God whom we can trust, who will catch us as we let go. God will hold us, as we let go of all those things to which we cling. The one who raised Jesus from the dead is grabbing hold of us. So let’s be Easter people, and let go with our arms stretched out, trusting that we will be caught in the grip of new life.