Letting Things Go

The Exhortation to the Apostles,” by James Tissot

When Jesus trained His newly called apostles, He instructed them to do two things: preach the gospel and heal the sick (Matthew 10:7-8, Luke 9:2). Then, He listed a number of things He wanted them not to do.

Here, for example, is His “packing list” for their travels:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,

Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Matthew 10:9-10

And here is how they should prepare for public speaking opportunities:

Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.

Matthew 10:19

The rest of His instructions are similar. If they don’t listen to you in one city, go somewhere else (Matthew 10:23, Luke 9:51-56). If they treat you badly, “shake the dust off your feet” and move on (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). Don’t let the filth or the hurt feelings stick to you. If someone who is not with us is doing the same work, don’t worry about it (Luke 9:49-50). Deny yourselves, take up your cross daily, and lose yourself in the work (Matthew 10:38-39, Luke 9:23-24).

A major part of following the Savior is setting things aside. We have a natural tendency to acquire things, including possessions, responsibilities, and recognition. In contrast, the Savior teaches us to do more with less. He helps us find joy by decluttering our lives and focusing on the most important things.

Ammon and his brothers followed the same pattern as they taught the gospel among the Lamanites. They were sons of a king, but they traveled lightly, taking only the weapons they would need to “provide food for themselves while in the wilderness” (Alma 17:7). In the land of Ishmael, Ammon offered to be a servant of the king (Alma 17:25). Meanwhile, his brother Aaron moved from city to city—Jerusalem, Ani-Anti, and Middoni—looking for people who were receptive to his message (Alma 21:1-12). They traveled lightly and let things go quickly, so they could be more nimble and productive in carrying out God’s work.

As I’ve pondered this concept today, I’ve thought of some things I can set aside:

  1. Talking: I can let go of some thoughts that I want to share. When I’m in a conversation, I can easily think of things I’d like to say. Sometimes, holding back and listening more carefully to the other people is a better use of time.
  2. Googling: I can let go of my desire for immediate answers. Sometimes, I have a question which could be easily answered through an internet search. But running that search and reading the answer may be an unwise distraction from the activity I’m currently involved in.
  3. Ruminating: I can leave the past alone and live in the present. It’s easy for me to review events of the past: things I regret as well as things I have accomplished. Some amount of self-review is important, but sometimes I would be better served by setting aside those memories and focusing on the work of today.

A little over a year ago, one of our daughters began her service as a missionary. For the first week, she participated in virtual training in our home. During that time, I found myself modifying my habits, not because I had to live the mission rules myself but because I wanted our home to be an appropriate place for her training. I found that I could live without some of the entertainment that I’m used to, and that simplifying my life helped me to feel closer to God.

Today, I will let go of unimportant things. In particular, I will avoid unnecessary talking, googling, and reminiscing. I will free myself to do the most important things by letting go of things that matter less.

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