For some reason, there is this piece of relationship advice that says “if you love something, let it go.” Quite honestly, I’ve found this to be remarkably poor advice.
A relationship, after all, is a commitment. It means that when challenge arises (and it will), both parties are committed to working through it. The idea of simply walking away only enters the picture when all other avenues have been explored and the only healthy option for both people is to go their own separate ways.
Even in dating, where the couple may come to determine that their relationship is better served as a friendship rather than a romance, the concept of abandoning one’s partner in the passive hope that they will return is, quite frankly, a little ridiculous.
But sometimes, walking away is what happens.
I’ve always been a bit fascinated with the depiction of service that Jesus gives in washing the feet of the disciples. There in that room, before they sat down for their final meal together, Jesus took the calloused and dirt-encrusted feet of His beloved followers and tenderly cleaned them of the grime that results from walking the dusty roads of first century Palestine.
That Seder meal would prove to be an odd one for those gathered at the table. Standing before them, Jesus would break bread and pour wine describing these elements in cryptic terms as His body and blood. He foretold His coming betrayal and crucifixion, the darkest moment of His earthly ministry, and in the midst of it he revealed how every person there with Him would turn and abandon Him to His fate. They would all walk away, and He had just washed their feet so they could walk away clean. If you love something, let it go …
This was not the end of the story, however. Jesus walked to that cross alone, hung in bleeding agony while His closest friends stood at a distance, and one of His inner three denied even knowing Him. Three days later, however, He would return in resurrection glory. On this side of the empty tomb, Jesus would now pursue his beloved.
It began with Mary, who mistook Him for the gardener until her eyes were opened to see her risen Lord standing before her. It continued on the road to Emmaus, where He broke bread once again with two of His followers.
As those two rushed back to carry news of His return, He would encounter the gathered Disciples who sat huddled together behind locked doors. This group broke the news to Thomas, and Jesus would return to encounter him as well. He would sit with Peter on the edge of the sea, restoring that deep and abiding love as He instructed him to “feed my sheep.” One after another, Jesus would seek out His beloved Disciples, and draw them back into relationship with Him.
He hasn’t stopped. He still pursues us. This relentless love continues to invite us into the depths of His heart, but it also honors us. There is nothing compulsive about the passion He bears for us, but rather a steady and enduring presence — beckoning, inviting, wooing us home.
The full phrase reads “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.” Sometimes, the reality of love means we have to wash the feet of our beloved, knowing they will walk away. Other times, it means we pursue the relationship, engage the broken places and work through our difficulties. It does not, however, mean that we truncate love into a passive exercise.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. —1 Corinthians 13:4-7
In other words, love is inherently active, and its activity is beautiful.
T E Hanna is the author of the upcoming book Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age and blogs on issues of faith and culture at TEHanna.com.