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Monday, May 1, 2017

"Letting Go" (David T. Harvey and Paul Byron Gilbert)

TITLE: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls
AUTHOR: David T. Harvey and Paul Byron Gilbert
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

You've tried your best. You've gone over and beyond your call of duty. You've ran the second mile, gave till it hurt, and turned the other cheek. Yet the one you loved had turned away and left you. What then do you do? Answer: Learn to let go. The parable of the Prodigal Son is one classic story to bring us into what the loving father felt at the time when he needed to let go. For some of us, the biblical story remained a story until it hits home up close and personal. Questions would fly at us fast and furious. What do we do with a rebellious child? How can we solve a relational problem? What do we do when someone doesn't listen to advice despite our best intentions? According to authors Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert, we need to practice the wisdom of letting go without losing hope. The two basic truth we need to acknowledge from the Bible is:

  1. This world is broken, and this leads to lots of pain and hurt;
  2. We need God's grace in order to move from despair to hope.

It is this faith that the love and grace of God overwhelm all brokenness and pain. It is the very basis of learning to let go and let God. Written for those who feel lost about what to do when their loved ones rebel and people who are at their wit's end about what to do in the midst of rejection, the authors share from their well of experience as pastors and counselors of many people experiencing times of pain and struggle. How do we deal with a wayward person? Recognize it in three parts. First part is about acknowledging a RUGGED LIFE. Marriages fail; dreams shatter; relationships unravel; parenting struggles; teenagers rebel; and we are prone to wander. The key questions that describe our reaction to a rugged terrain of life are:
  • Why is this happening?
  • What have I done to create this mess?
  • Why do I feel so ashamed?
  • What does love look like right now?
  • If this person is sucking all the life out of me, why do I feel guilty?

We see how individuals show a sense of personal irresponsibility, victimization, new individual assertions, and the threats of leaving. It threatens the traditional sense of family unity. The problem lies in the lack of space to allow change. Harvey and Gilbert give us a better understanding of what 'wayward' means. At the starting point, we are all wayward as far as our relationship with God is concerned. Waywardness is in our blood, so we ought not be too surprised about it happening in our relationships. Saved sinners are aware of this. From the waywardness of family, the authors stretch this to how we reject our true calling and roles in society. We can identify our history and past in order to begin the process of healing. While the recognition of this rebellious condition is important, we need also to recognize the tendency of us to deny it in other ways. We make choices assuming no consequences. We want autonomy without accountability. We expect our leaving will not make much difference to the status quo. This is also a situation that tests the balance of power. By helping readers understand the background and the manifestations of our rebellious nature, we begin to see how broken is broken, and the true rebel is not outside, but inside us.

In RUGGED LOVE, the authors spend two chapters describing how tough love looks like. It is:
"strong enough to face evil;
tenacious enough to do good;
courageous enough to enforce consequences;
sturdy enough to be patient;
resilient enough to forgive;
trusting enough to pray boldly."
With the determination to love regardless of the rebellion, Harvey and Gilbert equip us with encouragement to keep loving and to keep pursuing the path of care. Letting go does not mean leaving our loved ones to all kinds of consequences without our intervention. It means keeping in touch. It means knowing when to let go and when to pursue. It means wisdom in practicing what the authors call "pursuing by releasing." This takes some explanation and readers get a few illustrations about what that means. Sometimes it means preserving a minimum level of peace. It means giving them a way to take personal responsibility for their own choices. It means learning to trust and avoid over-protecting them. Chapter 8 is an important one that asks about when is the time to fully let go. This requires prayer and a sensitivity to the psychological makeup of the person. It also means learning to modify our language and our manner of communication.

If the first two parts of the book balance up, the third part of RUGGED GRACE provides us a path forward to live beyond ourselves in the strength and power of God's grace. Love overcomes all semblance of shame. Trust is above suspicion. Good news overwhelm bad news. It comes back to our faith, and how God in Jesus loves us unconditionally and completely. They conclude with some 'spiritual boosters' to help us overcome these challenges with waywardness.

So What?
The single biggest reminder in this book is about our own waywardness. Sometimes, when we think about rebellion, we are quick to point fingers and to blame others. We forget that we too had been teens before and had brought similar kinds of pain to our parents with our waywardness. Like what Romans 3:10 reminds us: "There is none righteous, no not one." Often, when we learn to reflect on our own sense of brokenness, it will help us go easy on expectations on others. This is something we all need to do more, not less. We will all experience the consequences of waywardness at some point in our lives. Learning how to let go begins with the history of our past, to taper our expectations so as not to unfairly judge others and elevate ourselves unwittingly to a higher level of righteousness. In daily living, we need humility to learn from people of all ages. There is no need to be condescending on those younger or less experienced than us. If we fail to be humble about any matter, we may even be teaching others to copy our styles!

Learning to let go has more to do with our self-awareness and self-limitations. In dealing with our own brokenness, we learn to show grace to others and to give space where appropriate. We need wisdom to know how to go about it all. This book provides a lot of wisdom to help readers discern what to do and what not to do. Kudos to the authors for giving us this very helpful book.

The authors are pastors at Four Oaks Community Church in Tallahassee, Florida.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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