The Hard Work of Hanging On and the Brave Work of Letting Go

Twenty years ago, my husband and I made one of the most difficult decisions of our married life:  we decided to leave a church and to worship elsewhere. Leaving behind dear people we loved (and likely offending more than one person in the process), we left that fellowship convinced that God was telling us it was time to let go. Soon, our roots were planted deeply in the good soil of another church family. They welcomed us with warmth and enthusiasm and the years have flown. The church with the white steeple and the red doors is home to us and to our sons, but, quite honestly, there have been seasons when it was not a joy to be there–hard seasons of pastoral searches, dry spells when nothing seemed to click, frustrating years when I would scan the horizon for a sign–sky writing, a whisper from the Word, ANYTHING that would release us and give us a green light to let go. I was tired of holding on, but the clear assignment from God was to do that very thing, and I’m thankful now that we did.

In It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible, Jennifer Dukes Lee devotes two full chapters and a lot of wisdom to the tightrope walk of hanging on and letting go. It turns out that “Let Go and Let God” may not be the best advice all the time, but there are also times when letting go is a true mark of bravery. It was good news to hear that “gospel living is not an either/or question. It’s both/and. It’s coming back to that fork in the road every day–with every decision, every obligation, and every relationship–and asking God to help you choose.”  (77) This is a recipe for living surrendered, and it comes back to persevering through the hard work, believing through the messy middle, and practicing the spiritual discipline of active trust.

Persevere through the Hard Work

“Just because something is hard work, doesn’t mean it’s wrong or should be abandoned.” (85) God may call you to write a book, start a new career, or to persevere through a hard season with a needy friend. It is also likely that at some point you will be called into the hard work of letting go, of opening your hands to release grown children, to relinquish a project that has gone off the rails or a task that is not yours to do.  The privilege and the challenge of this following life is living close to Truth so when God’s voice comes, our ears are accustomed to its pitch and timbre, and our hearts are in good shape for the hard work of obedience.

Believe in the Messy Middle

Living on the horns of a dilemma is just as uncomfortable as the metaphor sounds. We reach a point where we want ANY decision that will take the place of indecision, and yet holding on in the midst of the unknown is a powerful affirmation that we are not in control of the situation and are yielding to the One who is.  When guidance comes, if God calls you to hang on, He has the end of the rope alongside you. However, if you are called to release instead and to move on in faith, Jennifer reminds readers that “for everything you’ve ever let go, Jesus is still hanging on.” (107)

Practice the Discipline of Active Trust

Does it help your heart to know that God knows the end result of your holding on/letting go dilemma?  It is entirely true that we may “have to wait until heaven to know he was trustworthy in all that is yet to unfold in our lives. But until then, we have a choice. We can trust him with all that we are because we believe he is all he says he is. He hasn’t done all that we wanted, but he has done all that is right.” (108)

Releasing our white-knuckle control over every aspect of our lives (and those we love) is fueled by that relationship of trust. The prophet Isaiah painted a picture of the point of release around seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. He did not know your situation, whether you are struggling to let go or straining to hold on, but his words come as fresh reassurance today:

“Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: ‘This is the right road. Walk down this road.'”  (Isaiah 30:21, MSG)

 May we find grace to wait, to listen, and then to follow,

Michele Morin

Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Back in 2016, Jennifer Dukes Lee released The Happiness Dare in which sheThe Happiness Dare lays down the challenge to overcome obstacles to happiness with truth that jumps into our hole of unhappiness and builds a ladder toward the light.  To the defeatist notion that “This is just the way I am,” she offers the happiness booster that “little by little, I can become happier by changing the way I think.” The truth of Romans 12:2 is nowhere more practical than in the “renewal” that takes place when the believer alters her thoughts toward happiness. I invite you to check out my review of The Happiness Dare here.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible, simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Faith Going Forward: A Mid-Life Following

I can just barely admit this, but I have finally hauled all the cassette tapes — John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Billy Joel — out from under my bed.

And I’m going to throw them away.

Letting go of this one thing may not free my hands to grab hold of an entire universe, but who knows?

This unloading is initiated, I think, by my oldest son’s purchase of a house:  endless boxes and piles of belongings, so overwhelming, and yet minor, inconsequential compared with my extensively curated mess.

Then, there’s the presence of teen sons still in the nest, their growing competence a continual reminder of my slippage toward obsolescence.
The prayer of my heart as I fill the waste basket with relics from the 1980’s is this:

“Oh, Lord, please keep my heart from becoming brittle and plastic,
unconsciously stuck in rigid notions of my own right-ness.
Grow in me a willingness to jettison anything that slows my growth toward You.”

Capture

I’m sharing this post with readers, writers, and thinkers at The Perennial Gen, a website devoted to the process of growing deeper roots in the dirt and light of midlife.

This offering winds up their October theme of health and wellness, and I’d love it if you’d join me over there now to read about what that looks like here on this country hill in Maine.

And I invite you to join the discussion.

  • Has your heart found grace enough to view, in retrospect, your stumbling steps as the exact price for becoming the person you are today?
  • What are you letting go of at this point in your life in order to move forward in health and wholeness?

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash