Why It’s Safe to Let Go

September 11, 2012 | 48 comments

Sure, the handwriting is on the wall, but it’s also right at our feet and written all over the world in big capital letters.


Those are the two words painted on the cobblestone of San Francisco, right along the Powell-Market line, and far away from home.

I’m waiting in line with friends to ride a cable car when those white words jump out at me from the street. I do a double-take, tilt my head while I take it in.

“Let go. Let go.”

I say it over and over to myself. I do believe this in my head: that those two words are a way to live a life of wild freedom, of radical trust in God. But I am still learning to actually and practically believe them in my heart. I also need to believe the words with my hands. I have been known to white-knuckle what I love.

I’m a stubborn student.

I snap a photo. I need to capture the image, like it might be another way to make the truth stick. I can stand here on the West Coast, reading those two words with my head cocked to the side, and watching pigeons strut across the rails. While standing right here, I can boldly declare that this is my philosophy.

But I know I’ve lived otherwise. I’ve often thought that the best way to love a person is to hold on vice-grip tight.

Letting go has always seemed a tad risky, at best, maybe even dangerous.

Because, really, how does one let go of the child growing up too fast? Or the wayward teen who barges out of the house, slamming the door behind him, spewing hateful words? How do you let go of the mounting debt? Or the hurt inflicted by inattentive spouse? And what of the friend who might never come to know the truth of Christ’s teachings? How do you let go when the doctor delivers the terminal diagnosis?

Me? I’ve had trouble letting go of far lesser things — like too-small jeans and silly grudges.

But the handwriting is on the wall, like a God-incidence begging to be read by the whole world:  There are words, right here, splayed out like a reminder to live it real and free — to actually “let go” when the stubborn part of you begs to hang on for dear life.

I discover later that the words, “Let Go,” are painted on the cobblestones as a reminder for the cable-car gripman to release the cable at just the right time. If the gripman fails to “let go,” he could inflict serious damage to the cables.

The gripman has to trust. He has to let go.

cable car san francisco

I admit it. I have been a gripman, white-knuckling the things and people I love. I don’t always read the signs.

But what would if we did? What if we could actually let go and let God?

What might it mean for those we love?

I know that it’s a wild and radical leap of faith, to open up the hands.

If we let go of the string, a helium balloon floats up and away.  If we let go of the leash, the dog bolts. If we let go of the steering wheel, a car eventually veers of course. If we let go of the rope, we fall fast.

But in the unseen world, where matters are turned upside-down, letting go is the only thing that has ever made any sense. I think now of Jesus, who temporarily let go of His place in Heaven, hurling down through space and time to save a world begging for life.

Jesus Christ let go.

Jesus Christ gets it.

We really can trust Christ to keep his hands on the proverbial wheel, even if we don’t like where the ship is headed. We can trust God to maneuver the life, knowing He is eternally faithful even if it looks like our whole world looks like it has just crash-landed.

We can let go of ropes, knowing that He will surely catch us, this God who promised to never let go of us, His beloved.

I read the writing on the wall, and at my feet, and all over the world — and right here, like a promise in large white letters, a splash of glory on a San Francisco street.




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by | September 11, 2012 | 48 comments


  1. Amanda

    “I have been known to white-knuckle what I love.” I can SO relate to this, and I feel like God SO has me here, revealing how little I trust him yet gently teaching me how to let go. It’s so hard. I used to always knock the control freaks thinking myself to be a free-spirit. Turns out I have some serious issues letting go and allowing God to have His Way! Thankful for grace and thankful for this beautiful post. (and psst… howdy from California. I am just 2 hrs from San Fran)

    • dukeslee

      Well, hello from Iowa, Amanda! I spent the last weekend with girlfriends in San Francisco. I enjoyed my time in your corner of the world.

      I hear what you’re saying, about knocking the control freaks then realizing I’ve still got some issues. Yep. That’s me.

      Nice to have you here today, Amanda.

  2. ro.ellott

    Jennifer…wonderful post…thanks for the reminder to live with open hands…to live with open hands I must live with my heart completely open to Him…trusting in His love…because who will open themselves if they don’t feel safe and loved. blessings to you~

    • dukeslee

      Opening the hands can be excruciatingly difficult. Honestly, when I started to write this post, I thought I was a “let go girl.” But really? I can think of a number of things that I’m vice-gripping. My children top the list.

  3. kelliwoodford

    Oh, Jennifer.
    This is so good.
    For both love and freedom hang on those two words, don’t they?
    This “Let go.”

    • dukeslee

      Yep. True, true. Thanks for being here, Kelli.

  4. Lynn Morrissey

    Thank you so much, Jennifer, for showing us the beauty of letting go. How often God has had to pry loose my grip on some aspect of life, where I cling in an ugly stranglehold. Clinging chokes out life, brings death. God has often taught me through the image of gently falling autumn leaves. With each gust of wind, they simply let go and enter into a graceful waltz, pirouetting in the breeze. Beauty and freedom characterize their release. Such can be mine if I will but let go. As Meister Eckhard said, “The fruit of letting go is birth.” Thank you for this life-giving post, Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      I love that image, Lynn, of the pirouetting leaves. Such a graceful, hopeful image. Thank you.

  5. Christina

    Beautiful! I have trouble letting go but once I do, I realize He never lets go of me. Blessings!

  6. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    Thank you Jennifer. I needed this reminder. Funny how you can seek the Lord, desire to serve him, and still try to control the people around you.

    • dukeslee

      Yeah. Guilty. As I began to write this post, I thought to myself, “I don’t really struggle with this. I am willing to let go.” But as I got deeper into my post, I realized a number of areas where I still hang on pretty tightly. Ever-learning and growing …

  7. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Beautiful. And now the .38 Special song, “Hold on Loosely,” will play in my head today. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Oooo. Good one, Sheila. I love the way you think. And sing. 😉

  8. Laura Rath

    Hi Jennifer,
    It’s my first time linking up with you today. Thanks for hosting! I just saw that you’re in Iowa…me too. 🙂


    • dukeslee

      We’re so happy you’re here, Laura! I do try to visit as many of the links as I can each week. I hope to drop by your place soon! God bless.

  9. Pam

    I love how God can take two words out in everyday life and use them to speak so profoundly to your heart…and now to ours. Beautiful as always. I am wanting to see these “incidences” in every moment, every day…and they are there, soft as His whispers! I especially love when I can see He has put me in a certain place, in a certain moment…and this was definitely one for you. Thanks for sharing!

  10. HisFireFly

    This was just so ridiculously good Jennifer!
    Let go. Let go. I need the reminder moment by moment sometimes – perhaps should hand that photo on my wall, in my heart…

  11. Amy Hunt

    Radical obedience. And living worship.

    He’s moving in us both in amazing and powerful ways. Rich blessings as He leads you, friend.

  12. Megan Willome

    “Let Go” is a good word for me right now. I’m not doing it very well.

  13. Shelly Miller

    So, I’m wondering what your were doing in beautiful San Fran, like its any of my business. And then I’m thinking about how we both wrote about random words we saw on places other than home. But most all, I’m struck by your expression white knuckling that which I love. And I’m giving that to the Lord today, what I’m white knuckling. Thank you, so glad to call you friend.

  14. Alicia

    Do I say it every time I visit here? You have a way with words, girlfriend! Even with RANDOM WORDS. Every time you spin a story that sticks with me like peanut butter on the top of my mouth and better yet, it slips into my deepest parts and dares me to grow. Thank you.

  15. Alecia

    Letting Go..it’s been one of those things in my life that I’ve struggled with the most. I hold on too long and to my detriment. Maybe bc I didn’t trust God, I don’t know, but letting go is one of the best things you can do. It shows your maturity, your faith, and gives you freedom to embrace what’s coming next.
    Great Random word.

  16. Jillie

    I always laugh when I watch the old DVD episode of ‘Reba’ where her son-in-law, Van, urges her to “LETITGO! He tells her it’s ONE word, “LETITGO”! I watched that very episode a couple of days ago…and now this from you. I ‘think’ God may be trying to tell me something. Duh. Having ‘issues’ with my grown kids, and a close friend right now. Been “white-knuckling” it for a couple of weeks. Thank you, Jennifer, for your words today. A timely reminder for me. I’m going to put those words up in my kitchen…and in my Bible, TODAY!

  17. Laurie Collett

    So true, Jennifer! If we don’t let go of what we clutch on to so tightly, we won’t have our arms free to receive His blessings. Thanks for the great post & for hosting the linkup, & God bless!

  18. Kris

    Learning to let my hands fall open, rather then having them pried open. Unfortunatly, my default nature is to sqeeze, not release. Oh Jennifer, thank you for this. Bless you, sister. Learning this along side you….

  19. Holly Baxley

    You know what’s wierd? Whenever I’ve thought of “Let Go”, I’ve always seen it as, “Let go of your dream of _____ (career,retribution, validation, fulfillment, ect.) cause it’s not happening.”

    Don’t ask me why I’ve never thought about God whispering, “Let go Holly, cause your riding the brakes.”

    Hmmm…wonder how many spiritual brake pads I’ve worn out? 😉

  20. Deborah Carlson

    Oh Amen my friend, A M E N !!!
    Right where I’m at Jennifer…. xo
    Thank you!

    Deborah o/

  21. Joe Pote

    I have learned so much about letting go, as part of raising kids. I learned much more in going thru a divorce and child custody agreements, a few years ago.

    It’s not easy letting go of hopes and dreams. It’s even harder letting go “prematurely” of expected involvement in children’s lives.

    I am SO thankful I can trust our Heavenly Father to keep us all in His hands!

    Thank you, Jennifer, for the great reminder!

  22. Robert Moon

    I tend to “LET GO’ easier than my wife. She won’t hardly let anyone go who needs her help. Now she is tired after a long day taking her sister to get business done. I am happy that Jesus does NOT let GO of us!

  23. Danise Jurado

    I tend to be a “white knuckler” myself… I would love to think of myself otherwise but truthfully my constant prayer is to trust Him more and more. Wonderful post!! 🙂 May God shower you with blessings from heaven today!

  24. Alida

    My word for this year is Surrender so this post really spoke to me. Learning to let go is my mission for 2012.

    Blessings to you,

  25. judith maurice

    I believe in GOD, I belong to JESUS!

  26. Diana Trautwein

    Glad to see the blog decided to cooperate. Good words for all of us, Jen. Yeah. Whiteknuckling it is sort of the fallback position for most people I know, including me. Opening those hands is tough, tough work so thanks for the reminder and the call to just do it. . .

  27. Kathy Schwanke

    It’s the babies…that is the hardest thing to live open-handed with…the thing that brings all the ugly fear up to the surface and makes one wrestle with the Word of Life to lay hold of Him. The strain of perseverance strengthens the cords of faith. I blogged about taking the step, about flying and what gives us wings…
    I love your skilled pen Jennifer!

  28. Elizabeth Stewart

    There’s a whole list of things in my journal this week that I’m trying to let go of and trust Him with. Thanks, Jennifer, for your kind encouragement.

  29. Dolly@Soulstops

    Ah, learning to let go right along with you, Jennifer…were you in SF this past weekend? because we were (thanks to friends) for one night, and we were actually waiting for a cable car but gave up…that would have been so much fun if we bumped into each other…blessings, sweet Jennifer 🙂

  30. Annette

    I read your post yesterday and really liked it. This morning after my Bible reading this morning, I had to tell you about another God Bump!! I am reading the Psalms of Ascent with Beth Moore. My reading this morning was Psalm 121. My Eternal Guide and Protector! He is telling me it is okay TO LET GO, He has it under control! Thank you Jennifer!!

  31. Courtney

    I think I need those words written on the steps outside my front door! I particularly love how you described Jesus letting go – hurtling through space and time. I never thought of it that way, but that image makes sense to me. It is wonderful to think about how much theology can come from those two words, painted on the street. God is so good.

  32. Leah Adams

    Seems the Lord is speaking to a lot of us about this issue. I wrote a post recently entitled Palm Sunday where I talked about holding things with an open palm rather than a closed fist. http://www.leahadams.org/palm-sunday/

    I love the “let go” words painted on the street and how God can use words intended for a practical purpose to speak healing into our lives.

  33. floyd

    To truly let go spiritually is to live the peace and joy described by Christ himself. Why do we have such a tough time trusting our heart instead of our senses? Fallen nature I guess…

  34. Betty Draper

    “Letting go”…still an ongoing process even after countless moves and living in two foreign countries. My husband always says we are not to live like dwellers, driving our stakes deep, but drive our tent stakes shallow, God calls us sojourners. In those years of moving I have set up and given many houses, left deep friendships, lost things that were dear to my heart, have lived years seperated from both our children by a huge ocean and had my heart broken a dozen times by not being able to fix issues. Honestly after all those changes I can say, yeah lets drive those stakes shallow. After countless hours of worry, I know I cannot fix thing. That one has been freeing in the present. I keep a picture of Moses mother putting baby Moses in a basket into the Nile. I have a wayward son, I let go of him every day and put him in the Lords hands. Really good post. Blessings

  35. Kel Rohlf

    Jennifer- Thanks for posting this! I have several areas in my life where I needed reassurance that is is safe to “Let Go!”

    I am going to write in permanent marker, “Let go!” across my knuckles to remind me. Especially when my mind anxiously tries to solve situations that I’ve already been encouraged to let go of.

    I have an image of riding bike as a kid and letting go…what freedom…how exhilarating…

  36. David Rupert

    I wonder about the things i’ve held onto. My status. My gold. My health. My youth.

    Funny, if I don’t let go at the right time, it eventually gets ripped away anyway.

  37. Pam

    I linked your post into mine today… 🙂 It is still resonating with me.

  38. laura

    I hear this, Jennifer. I’ve been having a hard time with the letting go lately. Thank you for speaking into my heart today, my friend.

  39. Dani Pettrey

    Thank you so very much for this encouraging post. I was really blessed by it at a time I deeply needed it. Thank you. In Christ, Dani

  40. kelli- AdventurezInChildRearing

    don’t you just love it when God writes something for you – right there on the street? 🙂 we are all white knuckle grippers at one time or another – regularly – I let God show me what I need to let go of as I read your post – thank you sister!


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