Loosening My Grip
Jennifer McPhail, Cambodia
I was a small-town girl happy serving in a quiet, country church with my family, and that is how I envisioned my starry future. But what inspired me? Daring acts of faith or testimonies of miraculous provision for a need gave me chills. I could not hold back tears when I heard stories of lives redeemed and transformed by saving grace. I was a young woman clinging with one hand to a picturesque life like I had grown up with, yet longing to reach for the unknown, the uncertain, where God’s hand is clearly seen.
Little by little, finger by finger, God gave grace to open my hand and “let goods and kindred go” to move halfway around the world with my husband and baby. That was more than seventeen years ago, and I have to say there have been many times that I realized I was holding on to some temporal, transient thing I did not want God to take.
Maybe you have the same inner war, yearning to risk it all to serve the Savior you are learning to love more and more, but still clinging to the safe and certain. Maybe your passion for Christ and the Gospel has spurred you to look at your global opportunities.
Maybe when you read Christ’s words calling for denying self, taking up your cross, and following Him, you tremble like you are scared or excited, or both. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” our Lord continues in Mark 8:35. In strange paradox, He calls us to let go of this life so we can have something far better, the life He gives.
But how do we relax our often white-knuckled grasp? Or how do we even know when what we are holding on to is a weight we need to set aside? What can we do to be ready to reach out for the adventure He wants us to have, whether at home or on foreign soil?
It is true that at times God will wrestle a treasure out of our childish fist, and then we tearfully bring our grief and our loss to Him in surrender. Today, though, let’s simply consider how to loosen our grip in three areas so we can let go as He leads us to.
Loosening my grip on my “likes”
Our individualistic culture encourages us to define ourselves by what we like, as well as by how many “likes” we get for what we like. From the time we were tiny tots, we’ve been asked,
“What is your favorite color?”
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”
“Do you collect anything?”
“What music group or actor do you follow?”
“What is your favorite hobby? Sport?”
We learned to answer the questions in a way that declares who we are by what we enjoy. But what are the things that should determine our identity? Can I be too narrow and even confined in a box by my likes and dislikes? Perhaps our self-life has been promoted by the world around us and needs a demotion. We could expand our likes to include the whole color spectrum or every wholesome thing that comes our way. It can change the way we look at food. People. Events.
In this case, loosening my grip on what I like to do and have has helped me enjoy so much more of God’s world, like Cambodian cuisine. I don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around with me, because there is more to enjoy everywhere God takes me. I have freedom to grow and change as new opportunities develop, because I am not who I am because of a defined set of preferences set in stone.
Loosening my grip on my security
Let’s face it. Most of us girls are not daredevils. I loved depending on my dad, and I love depending on my husband. I am also an introvert, loving those “me times.” So when I tell you that I get up most mornings and drive a moped in nonsensical traffic to the market to buy the day’s food and talk to the women there, you must understand that there has been a big letting go to get to this point.
Right now, you may feel insecure just giving a testimony in a group or sharing Christ on your summer job. I don’t know what terrifies you, but often we have something we find security in that we don’t want to let go of. Privacy, finances, relationships, or even phobias can all be things that hold us back from considering a Gospel-focused direction of life.
Loosening my grip on my dreams
What do you aspire to do and be? We all have dreams, and the world around us is constantly whispering its mantra, “Dream big. You can do anything you believe you can. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart.”
When we step out on faith, we lay aside many of our own plans and designs for life. Peter probably wanted to be the best fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called him to feed His lambs and fish for men. Did Peter lose his dreams?
I envisioned myself changing the world through writing books. I had my husband and my life planned out. During my college years, the Lord challenged me to lay aside every plan I had made in pride and ambition. Since then, He has given more than He ever took away. His plans are breathtaking!
After the rich young man sadly walked away from Jesus, Peter remarks,
“Well, we left everything to follow you.”
When Jesus answers him in Mark 10:29-31, every question you may have about what will happen when you loosen your grip is answered. Sisters, this is not asceticism! We are reaching forward to a fuller enjoyment of the greatest adventure, following Christ.
2/16/2018 10:00:20 am
Great Biblical truth here. It is amazing how much we hold onto those things that really don't matter. Thanks for challenging and also encouraging me to loosen my grip on the things of this world so I can reach out for what God has for me. It is so much better!
2/16/2018 06:52:34 pm
Thanks Jennifer, beautifully said.:"The grip" as you perceive from your third world culture feels to me to be even more pronounced and invasive in my first world field.
2/16/2018 07:55:45 pm
Thanks for your testimony, Jennifer! Angela and I were blessed by it.
2/18/2018 08:49:23 am
Thanks, Jennifer! Beautifully written. It helps to bring things back into perspective when I am prone to getting caught up in the philosophies of the world.
2/19/2018 07:39:40 pm
I believe you are changing lives by what you have just written! It’s nice to be able to read something and you feel like you are right there participating. Keep on painting through the the gift of writing so we can see and enjoy.
George and Marilyn Jensen
2/22/2018 03:14:48 pm
I believe we were privileged to be in your dad's church when you and Forrest were in the midst of making some of your live-changing decisions. What a blessing to see how God has used you and your family in His harvest field! Our prayers continue to be with you all.
2/22/2018 10:43:38 pm
Thanks so much for this encouragement and challenge! I just wanted to wholeheartedly agree with what you said and share a favorite quote that has proven nothing but true in my own seven and a half years (can it be?!) in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon said this, interestingly enough, in reference to the first time she saw her future husband and was not exactly impressed! However I have found that the principle applies to almost all of those things I want to hang onto with all my might: "It is a blessing that our lives are not left for us to plan, but that our Father chooses for us; else might we sometimes turn away from our best blessings, and put from us the choicest and loveliest gifts of His providence." I am still learning to truly believe and live according to that; thanks again for this heartening encouragement!
2/26/2018 09:33:41 am
Great thoughts, words, and example! Thanks Jennifer! Perfect timing too. I'm going to use this when I teach on Ecclesiastes 6:2 this week. It is God who gives us power to enjoy life. People may have wealth, honor, lots of kids, long life, good food, yet the appetite is not filled, Ecc. 6:7. Perhaps our unfilled hunger is because God wants us to yearn to be soul winners! Love you.
2/27/2018 11:03:42 am
Thank you so much for the encouragement to loosen my grip. It's interesting how some of us tend to stay in what I call "our comfort zone". I however had been searching for something more satisfying in my life and wanted so desperately to get out of my "comfort zone", that being said, I found myself creating simple missions within my circle of friends and family to win souls for God. I'm happy to say now that it has given me, not only satisfaction, but great joy in my heart. So now as I'm developing more confidence and courage to share my testimonials why not continue. Now I, aside from raising a teenager, have made it my mission to win as many souls possible with Christ. I can honestly say that the blessings are and will be countless. I've always had a heavy heart for troubled teens and young adults and yearning to help them. I am planning to open my home, once I'm blessed with buying a house, to foster care. Of course Abba, knowing my heart, has given me an opportunity to do so. I just recently joined a program that helps in the process of buying a home as cheap as possible and while at their workshop I was approached, by a sister in Christ, to help start a program for teenagers and young adults in need of Christ. I am so looking forward to it and thank God for the strength, courage, wisdom, and let's not forget His amazing grace and blessings as we move forward with this program. I guess I found my calling or better yet God has lit a fire in me to loosen my grip. We have an awesome God! Again thank you for your beautifully written blog and encouragement. May God continue to bless you and your family.
3/27/2018 06:36:31 pm
So much truth here. Many of these are like my own heart struggles. Thank you.
Leave a Reply.
*If RSS feed is not working for you, please add it to your app or software manually by adding this url:
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.