Forgetting on Purpose

   Written by on February 2, 2017 at 10:50 am

logo-smith-gregThis past June, my beautiful daughter got married to a wonderful young man whom I have known and loved for ten years.  While I cried at their wedding, and my heart broke a little to see her change her last name, I realized that she had to leave my home and family behind if she was to make a new life with her husband.  In Psalm 45:10-17 (NLT) which speaks of a princess’ wedding, the bride is encouraged to do the same thing: leave one behind in exchange for another.

Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say.

    Forget your people and your family far away.

For your royal husband delights in your beauty;

    honor him, for he is your lord.

The princess of Tyre will shower you with gifts.

    The wealthy will beg your favor.

The bride, a princess, looks glorious

    in her golden gown.

In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king,

    accompanied by her bridesmaids.

What a joyful and enthusiastic procession

    as they enter the king’s palace!

Your sons will become kings like their father.

    You will make them rulers over many lands.

I will bring honor to your name in every generation.

    Therefore, the nations will praise you forever and ever.

In Psalm 45, the psalmist tells the bride to forget her people so that she might truly become the king’s wife. She cannot be the queen she is destined to become if she is constantly clinging to the old life she once had.  Obviously, it’s impossible to forget her former life and family, yet she does need to detach from the household where she grew up, so that she can attach to her new surroundings and become the queen she is meant to be.

Likewise, Francis of Assisi denied his own family and the wealth of his house, walking literally naked away from the opulence and abuse of his father.  In the same way, those who seek God must be willing to walk away from attachment to the world in order to enter a new life.  When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he meant, “Blessed are those who willingly embrace a life of reduction and simplicity.  Blessed are those who give up ego and embrace the singularity of the Spirit.  Blessed are those who no longer cling to worldly wealth and instead take up the beggar’s robes of those who are poor in spirit–for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet asked of Romeo, “Deny thy father and refuse thy name, and henceforth I’ll no longer be Capulet.”  The Bard knew that, in some sense, there must be a rejection of the past in order to embrace the glorious life of love.  And so I ask myself, What am I willing to deny, for the sake of the love of Christ?  How can I walk as Francis did, in the freedom and power of Sister Poverty?

Contemplative teacher Richard Rohr writes:

…Letting go of our own small vantage point is the core of what we mean by conversion, but also what we mean by Franciscan “poverty.” Poverty is not just a life of simplicity, humility, restraint, or even lack. Poverty is when we recognize that myself—by itself—is powerless and ineffective. John’s Gospel puts it quite strongly when it says that a branch that does not abide in Jesus “is withered and useless” (John 15:6). The transformed self, living in union, no longer lives in shame or denial of its weakness, but even lives with rejoicing because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is—which is now more than enough!

…The “how” of letting go is so counter to ego consciousness that it has to be directly taught, and it can only be taught by people who know the obstacles and have experienced surrender as the path to overcoming them. The contemplative mind, which is really prayer itself, is not subject to a mere passing on of objective information. It must be practiced and learned, just like playing the piano or basketball. I do suspect that the Poor Clares’ overwhelming emphasis on poverty and letting go gave them a head start in understanding prayer as surrender more than a performance that somehow pleased God. They were already experts in self-emptying (kenosis) and letting go. In other words, “poverty” (inner non-acquisition) is first of all for the sake of prayer, never an end in itself.1

Just as the Psalm 45 bride needed to forget her father’s house in order to make a new life, just as my own daughter needed to change her name in order to embrace her new identity, just as Francis walked away from his father’s house to begin a new order, so there are things you and I need to forget on purpose.  Perhaps possessions need to be abandoned.  Maybe certain attitudes, and attachments must be forgotten in order to walk in the way of love.  I pray that by letting go, by forgetting on purpose, by losing your ego, you’ll find your true self, and God along the way.


1 Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Spirituality of Letting Go.  Week 2.  Prayer as Surrender.  Tuesday, September 6, 2016  January 24, 2017.  Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 70-71, 145-146.

© 2017 By Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission from

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at


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