Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go

Have you ever hung on to something far longer than you should have? I certainly have. There’s a tenaciousness about my spirit that serves me well when things get rough. I’m not one to easily give up on relationships, projects, goals, or solving problems. To me, obstacles are always a challenge accepted, and I love being able to break past them. But even though this is a strength I am thankful for, overused, that tenacity can also work against me. Especially if I can’t or won’t face the fact that maybe…just maybe….it’s time to let go.

In our last home, we planted somewhere around 30 trees in our yard. I was always surprised to see how quickly they took to the soil and sprung up. In the short time we lived there, some of those trees towered over our roofline. But there was this one…closer to the edge of our yard near the driveway…that just never seemed to thrive as well as the others. I never understood that. The soil conditions were right. It was the same type of tree as others we had planted in our yard that had done well. We had even bought it from the same place. But even though it would sprout a few leaves each spring and grow an inch or two each year, it just never got going. Finally, after an unexpected storm, the tree just stopped developing altogether. But can I tell you? I refused to uproot it for almost two years afterwards because I believed that if I just gave it more attention, if I just researched a little bit more to see what the problem was, if I just fed it more nutrients or stabilized it with a stake, it would make it.

It didn’t. It died.

I learned something from that. Instead of celebrating and enjoying all the other trees we had planted that were doing great, my attention, my resources, my energy was going towards trying to keep something alive that I should have just let go of.

Maybe you’re familiar with this parable:

“Then He told them a story: “A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’ “The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

I think one of the reasons we often hang on to things for far too long is that we catch these little glimpses of what could be…or what once was. Those little glimpses, like tiny breaths of air, pump just enough oxygen into our hearts to keep our hope alive. Because that what hope does, right? Hope visualizes the best. Hope believe for the best. Hope sees the potential of all that can be, and it reaches out with all that is in us to bring that potential into our current reality.

But the only way to guard the purity of hope is to acknowledge that there can also be such a thing as having false hope.

The fact is, on this side of eternity, not everything will work as it should. Not every relationship will last. Not every goal will be met. Not every seed that is planted will thrive. We will face trouble. We will face disappointment. And some things will just down right not make sense. But that is not meant to cause us to want to throw in the towel. It’s meant to point us to the eternity our souls truly long for. It’s meant to point us to a day when finally, everything will be as it should. Life will not end in death, and decay will not cause things to crumble. It’s meant to remind us that this life….this….is but a vapor.

God, teach us to number our days. Because life is precious, life is short. And we simply cannot afford spending (catch that: spending…as in currency) our days, our energy, our resources fighting to keep something alive all the while You may have something entirely new waiting for us if we would just…let….go.

When is it time to let go? I can’t answer that specifically for you. But going back to our parable in Luke, I will point out there was a measurement of time involved. There is a time to move on.

So I would ask you, if there’s something you’ve been hanging on to, hoping for the best, believing for the best, but it’s just not happening. How long have you been holding on to it? How much have you fertilized it, nurtured it, trimmed it back, dug around it and waited, only to find nothing is happening? Secondly, why, exactly, are you still hanging on? Because false hope won’t let go because of fear. But true hope, while it may still grieve the thought of letting go, will ultimately release, knowing that this life is just a glimpse of eternity. And there is one day when all things will be fulfilled.

So in the meantime, let us live life to the absolute fullest we can. Let us spend our time and our energy wisely, not giving all our best to something that produced little or no fruit. Let us love big, hope big, and believe big. But let us also have the courage to let go if the time comes. Knowing that those endings do not mean God has nothing more for us…but trusting that those endings will lead to new beginnings.