Marriage enrichment: Learning to let go is a difficult lesson

Mary set the example in loving her child with an open hand, allowing Jesus the freedom to grow

By Marian Christiana

Learning to let go can be a challenge for all of us, especially when it comes to our children.

Years ago, when our children were young and starting school, I asked my older brother to share his secret of letting his children go since they were getting older. He opened his hand, palm up.

He said that his children can fly away but the hand always is open for them. They know that there always is a safe place to land. He contrasted that image with a closed fist and talked about how this image would cause the children to struggle trying to be free and independent and there would be no safe place for them to land when they wanted to return.

I knew then that I wanted to love my children with an open hand, palm up, even if it wouldn’t always be easy to do so. Luckily, my husband agreed to do the same.

Our youngest child, Marie, graduates from college this month, giving us another opportunity to practice loving with an open hand. Marie has been very gracious in sharing her college experiences with my husband and me.

We have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her adventures and watching her blossom into a beautiful, confident young woman. We have followed University of Tennessee-Knoxville sports with her, celebrated with her as she found her place at the Blessed John XXIII Catholic Center on campus, and dropped her off as she fulfilled a childhood dream of being a Disney World intern.

Marie has had the “benefit” of having all of our “undivided” attention. Our older two children graduated from UT-Knoxville and have since moved to other parts of the country. Marie has politely listened as we shared our wisdom—over and over again.

Graduating from college can be stressful but Marie has had the added pressure of being our last child to live in East Tennessee. We want her to follow her passions wherever they may take her, but it is hard to let her go when we know that if she does move away all three of our children will have stepped off of our open palms.

Loving with an open palm takes practice and intent. Children give us ample opportunity to implement this concept.

My husband and I are not perfect at it by any means but we try to show how much we love our children by allowing them to become the people God intended them to be. Letting go can be particularly difficult, and when it is and if we are feeling stressed, we can always turn to our Blessed Mother, Mary, for inspiration and example.

At the Annunciation, Mary responded with, “Thy will be done.” This is a perfect example of being open to what God intended for her, and an indication of her personality and how she would eventually deal with her son. Mary had many more opportunities to practice “Thy will be done,” or loving with an open hand, palm up throughout the life of Jesus.

When Jesus began his public ministry, it represented a time when Mary loved him enough to let him go.

During this Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas and enter into a new year, let us follow Mary’s example and love our children with an open hand, palm up, so they have an opportunity to become those special people God intended them to be.

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.

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