A teacher stood in front of her class holding a bottle of water. “What will happen if I hold this bottle in my outstretched arm for five minutes?” she asked her students.
“Nothing,” the class replied.
“What if I hold it for an hour?”
“Your arm will get tired,” one student said.
“And what if I hold this bottle of water in my outstretched arm for twenty-four hours?”
“You’ll experience severe cramping and pain and probably have to go to the hospital.”
The bottle, the teacher explained, represents the things in our lives beyond our control. It’s like a plastic jug filled with our anxieties, resentments, and fears. It contains the pain others have caused us we can’t or won’t let go. It’s overflowing with the self-doubt with which we drag ourselves down.
My buddy recently sent me a link to a short video of this teacher’s classroom lesson. You can watch it by double clicking here.
“What is it that I hang onto? What weighs me down?” I pondered as I watched the teacher’s wisdom unfold.
Politics. Fear my dog Riley’s recent bout with a virus signals he’s developing cancer, and we might lose him after eleven years of his loving presence. Concern about what others think of me. Anxiety over whether the book I’m writing will actually birth itself in and through me.
The list goes on, and it changes moment-to-moment, day-by-day.
If it’s not the driver who cut in front of me without using his blinker, then it’s a negative comment someone made about me or a loved one that launches me into a grumble-fest. Anger. Resentment. Anxiety. Those are the byproducts of my clinging to negativity and the “what ifs?” in life.
“Drop the bottle.” That’s the solution the teacher offers. It’s what we can do when we notice ourselves clinging to something beyond our control or when we realize we’re holding onto negative emotions.
And we can supercharge the practice by asking God to help us let it go. We can ask God for the willingness to let go of what we can’t change and the courage to change what we can.
It’s become a standing joke with my wife and close friends. When we notice each other grumbling about something out of our control or worrying about what might happen to this one or that one, we stop, take a moment, and remind each other, “Drop the bottle. Let it go.”
—brian j plachta