Let Go, Let God

let go let god

In the massage room, there is a crock pot full of warm towels and a framed card that says Peace begins with you.

The music is nondescript piano against ocean waves, and the whole place is dimmed to an orangey glow.

The therapist begins to work, and I can feel her arms shake a little as she presses, presses, presses against the concrete wall otherwise known as my neck. Finally she asks, “Do you get headaches?”

“Yes,” I admit.

She silently continues to work, and I finally ask, “A little tight in there?”

Very,” she says.

*

The massage was a gift from my Mama Friend, just one stop on the “spa day” Groupon she booked for me last week.

“Listen,” she’d said on the phone a few days before. “You’re going to need to get Andrew to pick up the kids from my house on Friday because you’ll be at your five-hour spa day until seven.”

“No way am I taking your spa day,” I said, easing my minivan to a stop at a red light.

“Oh shush,” she said. “Look, I was going to do it, but I don’t really need the haircut and you do.” (She was right. I hadn’t had a haircut since May. Possibly April.) “Also, you’re having A Week, and you need the massage.”

“So do you,” I point out.

“I’m hanging up now.” And she does.

And everyone needs a Mama Friend like this: that person you put down in the Emergency Contact spot on all of your forms, the one who will take your kids on a moment’s notice because you have a deadline and your babysitter bailed.

I’m talking about the person you call about 14 times on the Third Day of Potty Training. The one who has watched you ugly-scream at your kids and still tells you you’re a great mom. Who sees no problem with your feeding those picky eaters of yours pizza for the third time this week. The one who gives you a Look when someone says something infuriating in Mommy-and-Me class.

She’s that person who can tell when you’re having A Week. She the one who forces her Groupon on you because she loves you enough to make you take what you need.

*

In the room, the therapist is working out a knot in my back. Even though I told her deep tissue, the pain is so much that I feel like I might black out, and finally I have to say something.

“Sorry,” she says. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get all this out in one session.” She puts the blanket back over my back and moves down to my feet. “You’re exceptionally stressed. You know that, right?”

“Mmm hmmm,” I say, and I think about all that I’ve been holding. These things that I’ve tossed up to the heavens in prayer – “Here God” – things that I genuinely want to give to him.

I love this idea of simply letting go of my thoughts and worries and anxieties and fears. Watching them disappear into the endless infinite like balloons, like lit Japanese lanterns, rising beautiful up to Him who is big enough to absorb them.

But it’s not really as easy as all that, is it?

It’s not as easy as just opening our hands because we’ve found other places to hold these things. The massage therapist is uncovering what I thought I’d let go, knotted muscle by knotted muscle.  They’re all still here, these questions and fears. They’ve taken up residence in my body, tight in my neck and back and shoulders.

In the end, the song is right and them dancing bones are all connected: the foot bone to the leg bone, the leg bone to the knee bone. The thing I grabbed hold of with my hands has worked its way into neck bones that crack a little when I roll my head from side to side.

And maybe the work of a faith community has less to do with telling each other to let go and let God, and more to do with helping release one another from the things that we can’t seem to shake.

Because I’m lying in the massage room and I’ve been sad for weeks. The massage therapist is working all of these knots, and it seems to me a kind of holy work. Church work. People-of-God kind of work.

She has learned by heart the feel of hidden sadness, anger, anxiety. She knows that it has to be worked out slowly and methodically with warm cloths and careful hands and soft-piano-quiet.

She knows that what we hold on to – what we can’t seem to let go – is stored in the unseen places. The neck. The back. The complex, cavernous heart.

And in the end, peace begins – not so much with me and my knotted, hard heart, but with the love of God always trying to work its way deeper into my soul.

With the people who will help me to see it, to receive what I need but can’t seem to grasp. People who do the long work of helping each other let go.

42 thoughts on “Let Go, Let God

  1. Umm, well, now I need a massage, but it just isn’t as cool for guys to go get those, it seems. Oh, well, I’ll have to rejoice in the “lotion on my back and feet” that I con my 7 y/o daughter into giving me every now and then. Five hours? Seriously? That would be awesome, period.

    1. …”it just isn’t as cool for guys to go get those”

      What’s all that about? How did we make up a society where that sentence make sense?

      1. Stigmas of various sorts. “Massage parlors” were illegal in many places, specifically my area, because they were houses of prostitution far too often. And, still, most of the ones I’ve seen here cater to women, much like the whole “spa” experience, because I’m in an area where men are rough and tumble and will tolerate dry skin on their hands for years rather than switching soaps. We can’t be soft. We can’t focus on comfort, because real men are tough, real men are hardened, real men are immune to pain. A “recliner” is our “spa”, and only because we watch football on TV there. If we slip a disk, yeah, we might be allowed a vibrating massager on the recliner, but a pulled muscle? Get back to splitting wood, boy, and hush yer whining. A dude going to a tanning salon or a massage specialist is clearly not a real man.

        1. Oh, and I clearly forgot the FACT that women in my “world” are very possessive of their men and really don’t like the idea of some other, potentially cute, chick rubbing all over her man and making him feel good, because, well, he might like it. And, most of the time, she’s probably got a point.

          1. Didn’t mean any personal criticism by it. Just wondering how that came to be “normal”.

            Would it make a difference if a talented guy rubbed your shoulders – or does that take it some other place…

          2. Oh, I didn’t take any personal criticism, just explaining this perspective. Personally, I’m going to enjoy it either guy or girl, but the potential for overtones is there, just possibly different ones. And there are legitimate issues, because it’s an experience rooted deeply in pleasure, and it’s risky in many ways to get physically stimulating pleasure from anyone besides your spouse. Wrong? Probably not as in “sinfully wrong”, but potentially “wrong” as in making our minds focus on someone other than the person we are committed to.

    2. Oh, that is so wrong. My husband gets massages all the time (3-4 times a year). One hour, that’s all you need. You’ll be a new man. Do it. (or tell people that’s what you want for Christmas).

  2. [Massage is] …it seems to me a kind of holy work…

    Amen. A holy and sacred work. Oh how have we lost such a vital part of our lives by spiritualising and elevating the interior, future, imaginal aspects of ourselves at the expense of the present, physical, practical self.

    Funny really when you think that the central gift of Jesus to the church was a hearty meal with crumby chewy bread and warming, moreish wine, to remind us what he was like in person.

    Loving your writing at the moment.

    1. Loved this comment, Simon. Particularly this: “we lost such a vital part of our lives by spiritualising and elevating the interior, future, imaginal aspects of ourselves at the expense of the present, physical, practical self.” I agree. It’s all so connected, isn’t it? Not one or the other, but both.

  3. Everyone I know could use a Mama Friend like that. And, quite possibly, a deep tissue massage.

    Body, mind, soul. This is how our triune God made us. This how we need to learn and be in the gospel. “Let go and let God” makes no sense to me. I need to be taught how to do this in body, mind, and soul.

    1. I love what you said about needing to be “taught” to do this in “body, mind, and soul.” There’s this assumption in the phrase “let go and let God” that it should be easy and natural. But I love this idea that it’s something that must be learned over time. Thanks for sharing. (And yes, I have the BEST Mama Friend.)

  4. Great post, Addie. It makes me sad, though.

    “And everyone needs a Mama Friend like this…” I look around and do not see such a friend near me.

    Then, I realize that I am not that friend to anyone else. I suspect I should start there.

    1. Janice, I obviously can’t make any promises, but in my experience if you just go around spreading unconditional love, you tend to get some back.

    2. It can be so lonely, Janice. I so understand. I pray that as you begin to serve others in this way, you begin to find beautiful Mama Friends just waiting.

  5. Wonderful mama friend! I have one like that whom I treasure! The best massage I ever had was definitely sacred. Given by a nun! In a small town in Minnesota at a 12-step recovery centre. There was this little nunnery there, with these amazing healing nuns. And the spiritual advisors and recovery counsellors had one of these talented gifted nuns come in once a week and they hand picked those they considered in need of deep deep letting go and healing. I was one of those (say not more) and I cried buckets during the massage. I guess that’s why they had a pile of towels on the floor underneath the place where you put your face? Anyways, it was a bit weird to walk into a massage room and have a little, and yes, quite old, nun standing there in some sort of adapted-to-massage habit, greeting me with namaste hands. Best healing every, tho! I still think and dream about it and all that it released!

    1. That sounds like such a perfect experience. I love that. What a great idea to offer that at a 12-step-recover center. (Yeah…Minnesota’s kind of awesome. :)) Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. I feel like I want to come to your house and have a cup of tea. This: it is holy work. Touch is the last frontier. Touch is scary and vulnerable and creepy sometimes. When I work with laboring mamas, the only things I need are my heart and my hands and my voice. With one touch, I can locate and release the fear or the pain. We can do this with our children. It is not as easy because we are emotionally invested in their (annoying and constant) needs.

    But I cannot parent the child. I can erase bad memories. I cannot be the mother she wished was really with her.

    This, too: I am sad you are sad. And I am glad you know good people. And haircuts are good for the soul. And friends who know your heart are worth more than words.

      1. Elora,

        Seeing this now makes me wish I had carved out time in Austin, and it makes me wish I spent more time proofreading. I did not mean I cannot parent the child. Of course I can parent the child. They are my childs. (ha). I meant I cannot parent the parent, the laboring mama. But you probably figured that out.

        hugs to you.

    1. I agree with Elora. You’re good people, Jen. 🙂 I love the correlations you made to working with laboring mamas. Beautiful.

  7. This is so beautiful. And makes me wish, once again, that you lived down the road from me.

    Carry one another’s burdens. I love the way Paul tells us all to carry each of one another’s burdens. Some things are just not meant to be carried alone.

    Sending you much, much love xx

  8. I am so glad you have that friend, and I agree: we do need to be more attentive, to really listen, to help each other let go of these things.

    I’m sorry you’ve been having A Week. Wish I lived close enough to come make you a cup of tea. xo

  9. Shalom, sweet heart. I know the deep sadness and hold the stress in my back, too. And the shingles sores burn when I’m stressed. I’m grateful for a friend who brings cake and comfort food and asks how to pray for me – I think you had coffee with her last week, actually. 🙂 (And now I want a massage…)

  10. I know this post was about so much more than that, but I do believe in the physical healing power of a deep tissue massage. Our body does take on our emotional stress and often it’s more intense than a little nap or hot shower can ease. I get headaches and emotional when my body is that tight. I’ve added monthly deep tissue massages to my life, and call it therapy. 🙂

    1. I totally agree, and I wish there was a little more wiggle room in the budget right now to add them in. The therapist recommended, as an alternative, a 15-minute chair massage every couple of weeks.

      It’s so easy for me to forget how connected all of it is. I remember all at once when I’m getting a massage.

  11. I think that in some areas we overlook the facts that the body of Christ has bodies, and that God only makes good things. Our bodies need to interact. “It is not good for man to be alone.” Yet man had God. To me this implies that in part, at least, man needed another physical being around, which tells me that the senses should be involved in this anti-aloneness.
    In parts of our society, so many are afraid of touch, or always assoicate touch with the most imtimate of intimacies, instead of simply allowing it to be the intimacy it is. This is especially true in modern, evangelical culture, which seems to be terrified of most touching beyond handshakes, and brief hugs, preferably side by side (men must slap backs).
    Holding someone’s hand is intimate. A hand on a shoulder is intimate. A hug is intimate. But they don’t have to have anything to do with sex, or lust, or anything in appropriate. Sometimes they simply say, “I care” or “I am here with you; you are not alone” or “we’ll make it” better than anything else possibly could.
    I’m not at all didscounting what the masseuse did. I had my first real massage recently, and it was *wonderful* (and I’m a guy). I’m just suggesting that if we were all a little more physical with each other, we would likely be less stressed.
    I realize touch isn’t everyone’s love language, and that people who’ve been through abuse, rape and other things are justifiably not always excited about touch. But in general, I have found these things to be true.

    1. “In parts of our society, so many are afraid of touch, or always associate touch with the most intimate of intimacies, instead of simply allowing it to be the intimacy it is.” Yes, I agree with this, particularly in evangelical culture. Didn’t Jesus almost always heal by touch?

  12. Oh, I love this. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to just “give things to God” in regards to addictions I was facing, when I really needed to deal with the underlying reasons behind the addictions.

    1. Thanks lady. And yes, addictions are such a perfect example because letting go is such a long process. And it needs to be, otherwise it’s not really letting go, is it? It’s just a bandaid, a quick fix, a surface level solution. The real work of letting go requires help and love and so, so much intention. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Addie thanks for massaging the soul and loosening the knots inside my head today. Overseas, both men and women receive massages without any austere divisions for or against manhood. I used to receive one hour a week, but economically I can no longer afford it.
    As part of my artistic nature I tend to feel life more acutely whether I want to or not. My neurological system is set on hyper vigilant and works overtime. If I don’t take precautions, I can get overwhelmed and irritable in the course of the day. Oppressive and chaotic environments especially unnerve me, thus I also can become a bundle of nerves and this like you Addie, this is reflected in my body.
    Over the years I’ve taken strong measures to fortify myself as much as is possible… toward a highly nutritious diet and exercise (no junk food, no refined sugar, no coffee, or highly processed food)… walking each morning under the gentle sunshine (vitamin D) and taking vitamin supplements especially magnesium (which is the first vital vitamin source to be depleted when under stress), yet there are still days when my emotions get the best of me.

  14. I love this part: “The massage therapist is working all of these knots, and it seems to me a kind of holy work. Church work. People-of-God kind of work.” It’s amazing how we can shame ourselves over self-care because it is so, well, self-centered in a literal way, but for the person who is the Helper, it is a ministry, a way to heal with the gifts God has given them. 🙂

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