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Such Great Heights

By Jennie LaFortune

Years ago I read a story in Oprah’s O magazine, one of the few magazines allowed to be styled or left atop my grandma’s shiny wood coffee-table. I remember sitting on the blue couch – my feet propped up – flipping through the ads and turning pages, waiting to land on something interesting, faithfully knowing Oprah wouldn’t let me down. The quiet mumble of the TV on in the background kept me just far enough away from my thoughts until I saw a picture of a woman with a straight gaze and beautiful face looking directly into the camera.

The article began recounting a story someone told her about clinging. The first few lines struck me down in the pits of my gut. See, I’m a clinger. A tight-fisted-hard-to-let-go-of-things-girl, so it really spoke to me, making an even bigger dent than I felt at the time, as years later, I still remember and think of it semi-often (I kind of marvel at this when it comes to mind, wishing I’d remember a lot of the other myriad of articles, words, and stories I stuff into my psyche on a daily basis).

Maybe a less gullible more seasoned parable-lover would have recognized the formulaic arch of the story if they began to read as I did, but dear reader (pardon me, I’m reading Jane Eyre again), not me. I was taken from the start when the author acknowledged she was done with inspirational tales. Me too! I undoubtedly thought. At the time, I was desperately pleading and praying my heart would release and let go of a certain someone and certain expectations. I couldn’t get my heart to do what my mind told it to and I was sick of it! A few lines down my eyes gobbled up her experience:

A woman ends up clinging to a branch thinking a long tumultuous valley lies beneath her. After praying and hearing God’s response “Let go”.

“ Feeling low on faith and high on frustration, she ignores the command and cries and aches until the first rays of dawn. And then, astonishing though it may seem, she looks down and sees the ground…about 12 inches below her feet.”

Gasp, sigh, nod. I’m not sure your reaction, or if you saw it coming, but I ate that sentence up at the time. The cliff explained so much of my own death grip on, well, so many things really.

The poetry of material things is a phrase I love to show the beauty in not only metaphors innate and naturalistic in the world around us, but in the possibility of letting go and unclasping your hands to the wide open air of space. We can try to read the tea leaves or relax and practice trust. Adopt the pace of nature. In other words, stop being a clinger. Let go and let God as they say. Easier said than done, I say.

I thought of this the other day when I noticed my tight jaw and clenched fists. Figuratively, but also a little literally. Although I don’t feel like I’m holding a branch trying to not slip, I sense a teetering on the edge of a cliff that may promise great expanses and easier walking conditions if I’d just simply leap a little bit down. Kind of a risk to jump – maybe, but also threatening to be exhilarating, or at the very least offer a new vista and perspective. So let’s jump a little bit, relax our grip and have faith that maybe God and his grace uses the intricate designs of gravity to help us exhale and let go. To something firm waiting to soften our fall.

About Jennie LaFortune

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Figuring life out one book, beach, road trip, museum, and front porch conversation at a time. Perpetually on the search for the best dark chocolate, finest pen, and greenest field. When she's not teaching high school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, the shore of any ocean, holding her friends' babies, or taking long neighborhood walks.

4 thoughts on “Such Great Heights”

  1. Jennie La, you’ve outdone yourself with this exploration of the counterintuitive freedom in letting go. Thank you for this xo

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