The Gift of Losing Things

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I used to think I was so clever, rattling off my driver’s licence number from memory!  It’s hardly a prodigious feat, but it creates an impression: anyone who knows their own licence number must surely know an awful lot more!   At any rate, it hardly matters anymore as I no longer have one.

Driving has enormous appeal for a young bloke.  I guess it’s the independence, the power, the machine.  For me it was raw adventure.  Living in the outback I had no teacher, driving was a frontier to be conquered solo, and I had the luxury of abundant opportunity.  Landcruisers, trucks, diesel, and endless miles of adventure.

I actually paid for a driving lesson once.  I had returned to quiet suburbia, and felt that I could use a little professional guidance with the finer points of driving.  Things like road rules.  Or even just roads themselves, which were something of a novelty!  I can still hear the instructor saying, “Brakes please Mr. Allen”; and I can hear him suggesting I wasn’t quite ready to take my licence test, and did I want to book another lesson?  When I told him I was already on my blacks he turned white!  I never did book that next lesson.  I had done my licence test in the desert; the police patrol officer had given me the examination which oddly consisted of a single question: “So mate, can you drive?”  I passed first go!

Loosing things is a gift.  Not the losing-your-jumper-on-the-bus type of gift (but crikey was I good at that!  My hockey stick and clarinet were affixed to me with wrist-straps by my parents, sick as they were of trekking to the bus depot on Saturday mornings to reclaim lost bits of my life).  No, this is the gift of loosing substantial things.  I think there is a gift, or a grace, which allows us to hold things lightly.  “Using the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away”.

I sat recently with a young aboriginal man, absorbed in the tale of a hunting trip that had ended in disaster: a vehicle break down leaving the young man and his elder companion stranded on a moonless night, far from home.    Hours earlier they had exchanged a well-travelled road for the beckoning allure of fresh animal tracks through sand hills and mulga scrub, and now it was clear that the defunct vehicle would have to be abandoned. The hunters walked on through dark and trackless bush, occasionally rotating the shared burdens of the water bottle, rifle, and bush turkey: the prized fruit of their endeavours.  As they walked they prayed, and as they prayed a soft light shone down on their path, leading them safely home.  It’s a poignant, simple story with a profound lesson: when you must leave something essential behind, God himself will light the path ahead.

I began to discover this ‘gift of loosing things’ during the past year or so when our family came up against some significant challenges.  I lost my job, we lost our house, we lost a car, I lost my mobility.  I was fearful and apprehensive when I first saw each of these possibilities on the horizon.  I remember particularly my hateful dread of wheelchairs when I could dimly make out their shadowy form in the distant future.  But as each of these events came and went, I discovered with surprise and relief that I was at peace.  The changes took place, we were still ourselves and there was always more than enough light on our path.  We were learning something.

Gratitude dispels attachment: it’s much easier to face not running on the beach with my kids when I remember the many, many times I have.  In a similar way the choice I make to look ahead and move on is a strong claim on the ground behind me on which I once stood.

Now and then you sense that a season has turned, and it is time to say a brief farewell and then leave. When that moment comes, so also comes a gift of grace, and the light that shines on the path ahead is miraculous indeed.  Within that moment there may also be tears to shed, or pain to touch: as Queen Elizabeth memorably said after 9-11, “Grief is the price we pay for love”.  Surrender is an ultimate proof of possession.  It is only that which I can freely give that I have ever truly held.

I feel I have made this all sound rather glib and a little too easy.  Well, perhaps that’s because grace is never quite rational.  There is a certain freedom that comes with having less; even with being less.  I don’t say that it’s the only way to live, or the best; but it is how I am living, and in that living I continue to find gratitude, joy, peace, and hope, and life.

Rejoice!

5 Responses to “The Gift of Losing Things”


  1. 1 Karen May 3, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    What great beauty and truth.

  2. 2 Milton S May 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Hi Rod.
    Thanks for this message . I ,myself am now finding that the things and work I performed a year ago are extremely difficult and sometimes impossible , but I am graciously letting them go and accepting what I still can do .
    Blessings and keep writing these very inspiring messages.

    Milton.

  3. 3 roderickmallen May 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Hello Milton! It seems as though our youthful and idealistic world has a bit of trouble embracing this inevitable reality of reduction. But there is a beauty in it to be celebrated.


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