[Letting go and Letting God]
It was an ongoing theme in television and movies (maybe it still is. I don’t know), to burn something as a ritualistic symbol of letting go and moving on. Fire is destructive, so it makes for a great visual and metaphorical expression of release.
Growing up on a farm, bonfires were always a big deal to my brothers and I. For our parents, bonfires were an opportunity to get rid of old refuse around the yard, but for us kids it was the main event. We happily gathered and tossed whatever it was that needed to be thrown into the fire. My younger brother had always held so tightly to his security blanket, which he referred to as his “baw baw,” until that fateful day, when he was goaded–by our parents–to throw his blanket into the fire. Believing that it would be good fun he did in fact throw it into the flames. When he realized that it was irretrievable, he was understandably upset. However, sometimes the hardest things to let go of are the things that keep holding us in a place where we are unable to grow up, and move forward. Unwittingly my little brother had a little help getting past his insecurity.
When people burn old letters or photographs they are performing the very same act. (I’ve never burnt letters or pictures myself, but I have torn them and thrown them into the trash. It’s the same thing.) Sometimes we need that physical act to move on. When people burn things, they are essentially allowing themselves to let go of the pain of the past so that they can move forward without anything to hinder them.
For the Christian, baptism is our symbol of letting go and letting God have the go ahead in our lives. When we stand before others, as we perform the act of baptism, we are announcing our commitment to God. It’s really no different than throwing things into the fire. Essentially we are throwing it all into the fire: our past and ourselves, which we vow to trust to God. Much like the mythical phoenix, we too shall rise again from the ashes, as Jesus has His way in our hearts. He is the only One who can perform this “heart surgery” that we so desperately need. If we should stumble and fall along life’s ways, we always have that hope in Jesus who has already paid the price for our sins. When we ask for that forgiveness we receive it, allowing us to rise once again.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.” –Micah 7:8
Because water symbolizes being cleansed by God, through baptism we declare that it’s only God who can cleanse us from all impurity, and that we are sinners saved only by His grace. Because God is our all consuming fire, He can destroy and remove anything that has a hold over us, and restore us to Him–if we give Him that go ahead to do so. Much like my little brother had help letting go of what he held so tightly to, we too have that help in Jesus Christ who took our sin upon Himself. We just have to throw it all into the fire. Thankfully God is also the One who can douse those flames, and trade our ashes for a crown of beauty.
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” –Isaiah 61:3