“There is a time for everything . . . A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.” Ecclesiastes 3:6
Everything in life has an expiration date and hazardous warnings do apply. Expiration dates are not just for food. Typically holding on to something beyond its expiration date can be hazardous to a person’s health. That even applies to beloved possessions, houses, jobs, relationships, activities, attitudes and life itself.
Just read the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes chapter three or listen to the old 1965 Byrds hit song Turn! Turn! Turn! The message is loud and clear, eventually there comes a time when everything, both good and bad, has its proper time to end. Wise King Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes does not mince words when he says there is a time to die, uproot, kill, tear down, weep, mourn scatter, give up, throw away and tear. That sounds harsh and death-sentence like, particularly to things we love.
Endings in general are much less appealing than beginnings. But the offsetting truth is that endings are actually necessary for new beginnings. There can be no new beginning without first bringing something else to an end. Of course the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the quintessential illustration of this principle. Jesus taught that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV)
Endings therefore are the very things that enable new growth, next steps, renewed health and hope-filled beginnings. Endings are the threshold we must cross to enter into something new.
The problem is that most of us hinder our own forward progress and get stuck in the doorway because we refuse to die to something and let it go. We are like the proverbial monkey that finds itself trapped because it will not release its grip on an object of its affection. Prolonging endings are frustrating, painful and toxic to our spiritual and emotional health.
Why then is it so hard to let go? Why do we avoid endings?
1. Sometimes we don’t realize that the thing to which we are clinging so tightly has exceeded its expiration date. Or worse yet, we didn’t realize it even had an expiration date. With God’s help we need to pause and pray that He might show us that expiration stamp so we’ll be free to release it.
2. We love what we must end so much that we do everything we can to extend its life, to fix it or to prop it up. We think if we just endure, it will come back to life. But as the saying goes, If the horse is dead, dismount!
3. We are afraid. Endings can be scary. We are afraid of the unknown, of filling the void, of the fallout that may occur and of the grief that will accompany it.
4. We may have already experienced so many painful endings that we will do anything to avoid another. God is with us as we let go. God is with us as we move forward. Knowing God is already there, wherever “there” is, enables us to take the next step.
5. We may lack the know-how in bringing something to an end. Feelings of inadequacy, lacking necessary skills or not knowing what to say, all make initiating an ending tough to do.
6. We may be struggling to forgive someone who we believe is responsible for the ending. Or we may even be struggling to forgive ourselves for causing the ending. Letting go is not a rejection of others, or ourselves, but an invitation by God. Forgiveness, is probably the most frequent cause for people getting stuck and unable to move on to new things God has for them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But we can certainly see how getting unstuck and moving on to something new in life, requires letting go. When we end things usually determines when we begin new things. So let’s do it so we can get on with our lives!
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