For People with bishop Rob Wright

Letting Go… of the Familiar

Bishop Rob Wright For People Album
For People
Letting Go... of the Familiar

About the episode

Join us in keeping a Holy Lent! This Lent we invite you towards God, towards your self and towards one another using the theme, “Letting Go.” Since Jesus came to set the “captives free,” “Letting Go”of those things and ways that hold us back is central to the new and risen life in Christ that we celebrate each Easter. For the next five weeks, we’ll offer a video meditation on this theme with a study companion for you to make the meditations as personal and useful as possible.

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about Lent, this year’s Lenten series themed “Letting Go”, and the first meditation of the series “Letting Go… of the Familiar”. What do you need to let go of this Lent to grow as a Christian and closer to God? Listen in for the full conversation.

Learn more about this year’s series, watch the weekly videos, and download the reflection guides here.


Bishop Wright: 0:00

Our theme is called letting go. When we take our eyes to the five biblical texts that we have for the Sundays in Lent, it occurs to me that letting go is a great thing to think about. Letting go because a lot of us would say that we’re overwhelmed, overwrought, ensnared over, busy, perhaps lack definition and discipline in our lives. And keeping with Lent, a holy Lent, it is appropriate to say goodbye to some things.

Melissa: 0:40

Welcome to For People. I’m Melissa Rau, your host, and throughout the course of Lent 2024, bishop and I are having conversations based off of his Lent and devotions. The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta has prepared a five-week curriculum for small groups or individual devotion time over the course of Lent. You can download the reflection guides and watch the weekly videos by visiting wwwepiscopalatlantaorg. Good morning, bishop.

Bishop Wright: 1:10

Morning morning.

Melissa: 1:11

So we are recording this episode on what many people call Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, which means tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. So do you want to say a little bit more about what you are being called into and kind of talk about the theme of letting go and why that theme? Why now, why this Lent?

Bishop Wright: 1:35

Sure, Well, the rhythm, of course, is that Lent is this season right that the church institutes calls into being, where we prepare for Easter, and it has big movements. And the first movement is today, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Carnival right, which is literally to say goodbye to the flesh, Carnival right. So have your party tonight, you know, and in some church expressions you know, they eat breakfast for dinner tonight. And you know, get together and have a good time and do the do line dances and all that sort of stuff, because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and Ash Wednesday is where we show up to churches and other places, on the street, in some places, and we accept the mark of ashes on our forehead to say out loud to the world and to ourselves that we are embarking on a journey, that part of that journey is fasting and prayer, study of God’s word and abstinence from some people use food, other beverages, and you know it’s a season of withholding so as to make oneself sensitive to introspection and the movements of the spirit. So that’s Ash Wednesday, and so, and then of course that takes us into Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, and that’s what we really want to talk about today, because you know, there’s this theme that we’re sharing this year. Our theme is called letting go, and when we take our eyes to the five biblical texts that we have for the Sundays in Lent, it occurs to me that letting go is a great thing to think about. Letting go because a lot of us would say that we’re overwhelmed, overwrought, ensnared, over busy, perhaps lack definition and discipline in our lives. And so, you know, in keeping with Lent a holy Lent it is appropriate to say goodbye to some things and, of course, this first movement. We look at Jesus. Jesus has just been baptized and now the spirit drives him, herds him into the wilderness, and so our first movement is Jesus, is letting go of the familiar.

Melissa: 4:08

And I love that and I do have to say, just overall over these five weeks, the resources that you all have developed together are quite Really fabulous. I’m excited about the videos. Do you want to say a little bit about how you imagine folks across the diocese and the church in general might use these resources and their time with God over the course of Lent?

Bishop Wright: 4:33

Well, we started off doing this in Lent because we wanted to support our clergy and congregations. We know that we were sort of withdrawing from in-person worship, but I wanted to offer some folks something, and so we started to do these Lenten themes and they had videos and meditations, and not only that, but companion study guides with really good questions, developed by Sally Ulre, a member of the staff. And so you know, I mean people can use this in the car, you can use it as you’re walking along, you can sit down with a hot beverage and work through the study guide. I mean, the questions are poignant and I think they will help us to sort of really make good use of Lent and all these wonderful lessons and meditations that come to us, you know, in Lent. So that’s what we want. We just want people, want to give a resource to people so that they can use it in their own way and in their own time. But we think it’s important because what we’re really talking about is our development, our spiritual development. We’re talking about our spiritual maturity. We’re talking about closing the gap between what we say on Sunday and how we live on Monday. You know we’re talking about our mind and our behind, you know, inline, as you know, if you will. And so we’re talking about a greater peace, we’re talking about a greater awareness of who God is and how God is in our life and in our world, and ultimately, we’re talking about joy and life abundant that God wants for us. And that’s a journey, you know, we have to. Like any good thing in life, there’s a journey part of it. Some of it is grace and gift and some of it is how we respond to grace and gift with labor and letting go. And so that’s what we’re inviting you to do is to give some real serious thought to this so that, really, when we get to Easter right, so what do we want? What do we want? Great question what do we want? Well, we want an Easter People to not just sort of mouth Easter, you know, and just sort of not sort of yay Easter, you know, but for people to have walked a journey, you know, walked over some contours, become reconciled to themselves, become reconciled to God and become reconciled to neighbor in new ways. That Easter now is really a celebration in earnest that, yes, jesus is alive, and I have some new sense of that in my own real life.

Melissa: 6:57

Fabulous, okay, so let’s dive into the first week, then let’s do it. Letting go of the familiar.

Bishop Wright: 7:04


Melissa: 7:04

So, based off of Mark, chapter one, verses nine through 15, you already mentioned it it’s where Jesus is sent into the desert. The spirit leads Jesus into the desert, for what the Bible says are 40 days, which really means a long time. A time of completion right yeah, to be led away from the familiar. So are there other words that you might be able to use in place of familiar that we need to let go of.

Bishop Wright: 7:35

Well, sure, I think that we have routines that we might try to do something different. I mean something as small as starting to move. Maybe it’s turning off some devices, maybe it’s not reaching for the phone first thing. I mean, it’s about breaking routine, and it’s about breaking open by breaking routine. And what’s interesting about this story is is that this happens to Jesus. It’s not necessarily something that he chooses, it’s that the spirit drove him. Another word might be herded him right. I mean, I think that God is always in the soul-making business, and while our experience is not like Jesus’s exactly, nevertheless we find ourselves in unfamiliar places, and so I think one of the great lessons to learn in this letting go of the familiar is is that God is outside of my regular routine right now, and some new aspect of God for me to know and some new aspect of me to know about myself and even my neighbor is available to me outside of my familiar routine. What I like to say is is that you know, a lot of us would say we might have life has taken us into a rut, and the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth, right, and so you know. So part of new life, whether we sort of make a choice or it’s forced on us is about how we handle new surroundings, new challenges, new adventures. And Jesus learns that while he has, he feels a very real sense of vulnerability. It says he’s amongst the wild beasts, that’s what the text says, but simultaneously it says but he’s also cared for by angels. So, yeah, you might be among the wild beasts, and that is true and real, and you can name your own wild beasts. But while you know, the presence of wild beasts is not the same thing as saying the absence of God and the absence of God’s care for me. And I think that’s good news, because that means if I’m in the ICU, I might be among the wild beasts, but the angels are present. If the marriage is really tough, I might be among the wild beasts, but the angels are present, and so on and so forth. And maybe what that means for me is that I’ve got to learn a new competency, a capacity. I’ve got to learn to be on the lookout for the angels while the wild beasts are staring at me. And I think Psalm 23 says something like that though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, right, I shall fear no evil right, because thy rod nice staff, they comfort me. So, you know, I think there’s a gift here in the letting go, a real gift, and it has to do with what I like to call spiritual maturity. And you know, I think you know, little babies sometimes have those wonderful little blankies. You know, it gives them safety and security and God bless that. And I wonder sometimes, as adults, if we haven’t traded in blankies for other things. And while that may be just fine as a general matter, to what degree are we imprisoned sometimes by the familiar? You know, the example I like to use here is is that, you know, we can learn a lot from the Garden Spider. You know, the Garden Spider, you know, builds her beautiful geometric web, but the web serves her, she’s not entangled by her own web, she’s not imprisoned by her own web. And I find that sometimes we don’t have the sense that God gave a Garden Spider right. We tend to entangle ourselves. And so this is an invitation to detangling, to declutter and to let go of some stuff.

Melissa: 12:02

So, you know, one word that jumped out from me to me, watching the video and also listening to you speak, Bishop, is adventure, and I feel like the word familiar can be difficult for some, especially when we’re going through some serious, you know, loss, et cetera. And yet the word adventure pops up, especially when we think about going into the desert, Like to me. Yeah, let’s make it an adventure, right, and yet sometimes we can’t do that. I think another reason why many people don’t take seriously the word adventure is because quote we just don’t have the time for that nonsense right. So I’m curious about making time during this season of Lent to take risks or to step out outside of our comfort zone. How might that be turned into adventure?

Bishop Wright: 12:58

Well, look, here’s the hard part, right, here’s the hard medicine. The question is what do you want? You know if you’re satisfied, you know with your familiar and it’s delivering to you all the things that you need and you want, and you’re a happy meter, your joy meter, your God meter, you know your life, abundant meters, all pegged out. I suppose we keep on doing what you’re doing, but what I’m writing for and who am I, you know who I’m writing to are those of us who know and believe that there’s more God out there and there’s more liberation and freedom. Remember God is always about liberation. Remember that God is always about making us free, and sometimes freedom comes. You know, I mean, this is the paradox in scripture. You know, in desolate places the Bible says we will find our bread, and so what the world might describe as desolate hospitals, grieving loss, et cetera, is where people from time and memorial have said they felt the near dear presence of God. And so for some of us, we recognize that life has become overgrown. There is a gap between who we say we are and who we really. You know who we say we are and how we actually live, and you know what our calendar says about us and we want that recovery. We want to meet God anew. We need a fresh touch, and that’s what this is about. You know, this is about intending to do that. You know there’s a power with intention, a real power of intention. And so Jesus asked the man sitting by the pools of water for 38 years well, what do you want? Not because Jesus was cruel or crass in asking a question like that, but this he was trying to unlock in that man and even in us, this power. So what do you really want for yourself? I mean, you know, here’s the thing about God. God is not magic. What God wants to do is partner with us, and God is just yearning that you and I would want to be free and that we would want to know God. You know more than we know now and we’d want to follow Jesus even closer. And so this mechanism of letting go is just one way to do it. Look, let’s make it silly for just a second. You know I’ve talked about Marie Kondo before, who is the sort of guru of decluttering, and she talks about the fact that, you know, our pension for consumerism, you know, has taken us over. You know if you want to, you know. If you don’t want to believe that, just look at the booming market of personal storage. I mean, we bought so much stuff that we have to now rent spaces to accommodate the stuff that we bought that we don’t use anymore.

Melissa: 15:57

I said are you talking about my baggage?

Bishop Wright: 15:59

I’m not talking about you personally. I’m talking about us. I’m talking about all of us yeah, yeah, yeah. And so you know what would it be like let’s just use that as one small example. What would it be like? And she says you know, it’s about freedom. Right, it’s about freedom. And so I think that you know, you and I deciding what we need to let go, and here’s how we might make a determination of what to let go or what to begin to work on, and that’s a real deep reflection of what has me, rather than I, have it right. You know, when we become the possessions of our possession, you know that’s upside down, right. When we become the possession of our work, when we become the possession of other things, then life is upside down. What we want to do is we want to be in the position where I have certain possessions, I possess, you know, this certain routine for my time, et cetera, that actually builds my health and strength, spiritual depth, emotional well-being, physical well-being that it doesn’t diminish it. And so here’s one of the things we might let go of. Why don’t we let go of something as silly as deciding not to do, for some of us who are working people, not to do email before a certain time so we can spend some time with God, and to not do email after a certain time so we can either read a book or spend time with those we love. These are small things which can give life. These are the building of new routines which enliven us right and build health.

Melissa: 17:38

You know, I was thinking too of the word pain, like how do you let go of pain? And I actually I had this conversation with someone who I’m very close to and love deeply. All right, let’s just be real. My son is going through some stuff. He’s 17 years old and he loves deeply, right, and he just he said I just don’t want to hurt anymore mom, like what can I do? And gosh, when you hear your kids say that to you, you know everybody is heart pangs.

Bishop Wright: 18:07


Melissa: 18:08

And so I said well, you’ve got choices. I’m like you can go through life numbing, and when you numb you don’t feel the pain, but you also don’t feel the joy. Or you just understand too that you’ve got to go through the pain in order to get through the growth right. Like you can’t grow without the pain, you can’t do that stuff. And so, Bishop, how do you lay down pain?

Bishop Wright: 18:32

Yeah, and pain. You know, I thought you’re doing a marvelous job inviting your son to really just to face up. I mean, you’re inviting him to not be afraid of pain. That comes along with loving and life, and that is really hard, but you’re coaching him out of your role as mom and someone who deeply loves him. And you know, I mean, isn’t this what Jesus is encouraging us to do, which is to sort of let go of the fear of life right and to walk into the world? You know sort of arms, you know arms back just out, and will we get kicked in the shins from time to time and will we be stabbed and wounded, you know, by life and those? Yes, it’s true, but how do we want to live Right? And so I think we’re talking about, ultimately, the letting go of fear, and we’ll talk about that in, you know, in the next couple of weeks specifically. But what we’re talking about is the letting go of fear, and here’s what I have found those of us who are afraid to live are also paralyzed by the fear of death. I mean, it’s funny how there’s a direct connection between those two things. So we’re afraid to live and then we’re afraid to die, and then life just becomes this sort of grievous journey of you know, as they say, everything tastes like chicken. You know, you know. You just sort of you go from one numbing station to the next numbing station. Well, that’s not life according to scripture, that’s certainly not the life that Jesus is offering us. That’s certainly not Jesus is best to us. So I mean, look, one of the most courageous things you can do these days, you know, maybe any day is to love. You know what’s that old thing Dance like? Was it like nobody’s? watching Like nobody’s watching, yeah yeah, you know I mean to just give up on being a slave to the perception of others is a wholly letting go. You know I’m not a great singer If singing is measured by you know the tune of the you’re able to produce from the vocal chords. But what I’ve tried to move into in my life is to be unafraid to sing, because my singing comes from my heart and from my center of joy, which is that I know that there’s a God who’s put a song in me, and so what I’m gonna try to do is to let go of the self-consciousness and all that and sing the song, man. And you know I mean. This is why I love singing in the car, right.

Melissa: 21:02

Love it.

Bishop Wright: 21:03

Nobody to offend.

Melissa: 21:04

Well, and I feel like too, maybe we just need to let go of the idea that. Maybe we need to let go of silly notions. Maybe it’s a silly notion to expect to be able to go through life without feeling, feeling some stuff, right I?

Bishop Wright: 21:20

don’t know. I think it’s well you’ve named it really. I mean, so we wanna go through life and we wanna curate it, life that has no pain, I mean I think one of the things we can let go of, and Jesus proves this to us. He demonstrates this from when he returns after His resurrection. He only shows His wounds after His disciples asked Him to show Him the wounds. So Jesus, let go of the notion that he’s only His wounds. So maybe we might say that to people. I should let go of the narrative that says that I am only my wounds. My wounds are part of who I am, but they’re not all of who I am. They don’t completely define me. Maybe that’s a letting go of a familiar. You know the Bible talks about that we are to sing a new song to God and I think one of the things we can do perhaps in length, all of us is realize that maybe we’ve. We’ve sort of we were sort of stuck on one song. You know, a thousand years ago, when I was a little boy, we used to have records. I understand they’re back now and you know the record used to skip. Sometimes it would play the same piece over and over again and some of us sound that way, and so maybe one of the things we can do is talk to God, talk to ourself in quiet meditation and name honestly what we’re stuck on. What narrative have we just adopted now? And that is calcified, that is defining us, and maybe we can let go of that in favor of a new, more nuanced, perhaps even more joyful, hopeful, helpful narrative going forward. All of this Jesus does, all of this Jesus models for us, and it’s all about growth and it’s all about trusting God, even in the unfamiliar.

Melissa: 23:11

Bishop, thank you, and like you, I’m too. I’m gonna try to let go of the familiar. Listeners, we’re grateful to you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.