I wrote this article for the newspaper two New Years Eves ago. The response to it was pretty huge and positive. So I reprint it every year, as a reminder to myself. Hope it helps you let go and move forward – Dave
I’ve heard it said, “If you love something, set it free. If it returns, then it’s truly yours. But if it doesn’t return….hunt it down and kill it!
Just kidding…sort of. ;0)
But as we face the blank palette of each new day, one of the main things we need to embrace is not just the ” hellos” but also the “goodbyes”…
I still remember a painful conversation with a man who was telling me he was leaving my church. But before he left, he decided it would be helpful for him to tell me everything that was wrong with us. As his list stretched on, it became increasingly clear to me that there was really one main thing he didn’t like about our church…me. Included in his list were my preaching style, how I moved on the platform, my sense of humor, my love of creativity – pretty much all the things that made me unique as an individual.
At first, I was really bothered by the thought of someone leaving. I started to reconsider my preaching style and wonder what I could change about myself. But during my self-examination, I realized I’d already begun gradually compromising my ministry over the past months in order to make people like him happy. I was subtly inching away from the vision God had originally given me for my church, and who He had created me uniquely to be.
As I thought, I suddenly realized this man wasn’t just leaving, but God was removing him from my life. It was painful, it hurt my pride to see someone go, but it really was for the best.
Today I’d like to help you do one of the most healthy, productive things you have the power to do – say goodbye. We often have a sad tendency to chase after some of the very people and things God is trying to remove from our lives. I know that welcoming people’s departure doesn’t sound very Christian at first, but it is often indispensable. Sometimes it’s the most essential thing you can do to protect what God is doing in you and through you.
There are people in your life who have outlasted their expiration date. God brought them into your life to help you, but now they’re hindering you. Maybe they are holding you where they found you, or perhaps they threaten to pull you in a direction God doesn’t want you to go. If so, they will hinder you from moving forward and improving your life, sometimes because they simply lack the vision or the commitment to walk on further themselves.
It’s as if you’re on a mountain hike, scaling toward the summit up in the thin air. The uncommitted will try to persuade you to slow down or even go a different direction. It’s at this point you unfortunately have to let them go a different path. You have to commit to our own destiny, even if they are not committed to theirs.
One of God’s chief vocations in our lives is as a “pruner”:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it bear more fruit” – John 15:1-2
That means God will clip some things out of your life that are hindering your growth, personally and spiritually. Some of those things are habits that are hurting you. But sometimes they are people. God knows that you would never tell them to leave on your own, so instead He moves them out, saving you the trouble.
I’ve seen it happen to teens who were dating – the girl would never reject that crazy, destructive guy. So suddenly the guy walks out of her life, leaving her devastated but also a little relieved as well. She knew he was destroying her, but couldn’t bring herself to call it off.
I’ve known men who held onto jobs that were literally putting them in an early grave. The job is destroying them, but they don’t have the courage to quit. So one day, out of nowhere the company fires him, taking the ball out of his court. It is painful and hurtful, but many times it is the best thing that could have happened.
She thinks that crazy boyfriend rejected her. He’s devastated his job was taken out from under him. They think it’s their fault. But it is often God, clipping away at their lives with His pruning shears. Sure, pruning is painful. But it is completely necessary because without pruning, we do not grow. Room must be made for new growth, so “deadwood” has to be removed that would hinder new life.
If that’s where you are right now, try to resist the urge to go running after “the others” as they walk out the door. You will be tempted to change things in order to keep them. But if you become someone you’re not to win their approval, then it really won’t be “you” they’re approving of anyway, will it? And in the process, you will have forfeited your destiny.
And come to think of it, have you ever noticed that the people in our lives who are the most “high maintenance” are rarely worth maintaining in the end? (insert a “mic drop moment” here)
If God is removing someone from your life right now, don’t fight Him. Let Him clip away the things from your life that hinder you, and trust Him that you will grow stronger in the future.