Letting go and letting God

Although I was nowhere near the sea on that evening of 18 June 1994, images of water and sea filled my mind.

I suppose I was standing on the edge of something that frightened me, rather like a child not daring to leave the wet sand on the sea shore and paddle into deeper water. A naturally cautious person, I can be risk-averse.

I was staying in a convent on an individual silent retreat weekend. I had booked in for the retreat to create space at a time when I was feeling stressed for several reasons. I was also wrestling with the horrible suspicion that God might be calling me to ordination as a priest in the Church of England. I was resisting the idea. No, I did not want to be ordained. That was for other people, definitely not me.

During the weekend I read a book I found on a convent shelf. This was 'Pray as you can: discovering your own prayer ways' by Jean Gill, Ave Maria Press 1989. These words on page 15 challenged me:

"All of us are surrounded by God; it is a matter of whether we choose to let go and float or to stand on the pier and let God affect us only in tiny drops."

Recently, I found an old journal in which I had written my response to that challenge. Here is what I wrote. It is a sort of prayer and a record of what I was feeling then:

"I stand on the shore
feeling the firm sand under my feet.
Take my hand
and lead me to the rippled water's edge.
Let's go paddling together.
The water is warm and moving in gentle rhythm.

Lead me further into the ocean.
I'm afraid to go out of my depth alone.
It's safer to have my feet on the sand.

The sand is shifting, sucking, sinking.
I fall into the water and let go of your hand.
Help, Lord! I'm sinking, drowning.

The water is warm and strong.
It bears me up.
I'm floating, breathing the pure air,
lying back on the gentle, rippling sea,

I don't need your hand to hold me upright.
I can rest in you, for you are the ocean and the air.
You have led me by the hand
and taught me to let go.

You have brought me into the waters,
which are not shallow but deep as the sea
You have brought me into the stillness,
which is not still but gently massaging
You have brought me into the silence
which is not dumb but speaking.

I hear you whispering in the waves
"I love you."
In the sulight I see you smile.
I smile back."

I am now in my 20th year since ordination in the Church of England. When people sometimes ask me why I wanted to be ordained, my answer is usually "I didn't". I had to let go of my resistance to the idea and face up to what was going on at a much deeper level in my psyche, perhaps since childhood when I used to line up my dolls, lead a childish service and preach to them. 

That retreat in 1994 was a turning point - a letting go and letting God lead where initially I thought I did not want to go. I can look back now at that most uncomfortable time and thank God for it. Since than there are some who have been blessed by my ordained ministry, but I have been blessed in it so much more. Thanks be to God.


  1. For me, those God moments when you come to understand what he might be doing in your life are sources of gratitude and praise. I can remember a light bulb moment or two of my own, and they usually occur when I'm feeling a bit stressed about something, where a decision is needed but I'm avoiding it.

    Perhaps God waits for those moments to help us to let go, it certainly seems so, and thank you for your insight, which helps to remind me of those I have been fortunate enough to received.


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