Here is my next reflection on Paul’s transitioning from the city of Ephesus where he had spent the last three years of his life (read Seasons – Part 1).
Endings Require Us to “Let Go” of the Past
Moving on, required Paul to let go and the church at Ephesus to let him go too (Acts 20:36-37). Saying “good-bye” like this is never easy (Acts 20:25). They actually clung on to him, not wanting him to leave. Why? Because most of us don’t like change … unless we are initiating it. In fact, by nature, most people resist change. It’s difficult and we experience it as an unwelcome intruder into our life. We prefer to be in control and operate in familiar terrain. We tend to hold on to the past rather than let it go. But we can’t freeze this moment forever or go back to the way things were. Things change and that means letting go of what was.
Could it be that you are nearing an ending and coming to a time of letting go? Nothing lasts forever. Life is about growth and growth requires change. Not every problem can be solved. Not every chapter has a happy ending. Some things need to die so that others can be born. Resurrection life only comes after death.
Signs of a possible ‘ending’ nearing may include loss of passion, loss of motivation, or simply an unsettled feeling (restlessness) or a calling to something else. This requires much discernment, courage, a great deal of wisdom, and possibly some difficult conversations. Do you simply hold on through the current storm, hoping things will get better, or is it time to acknowledge an ending has arrived? To give up hope when there is victory in sight is a mistake but to hang on to false hope is a fantasy that can end in dismal failure. Admit it when more effort will not bring about a different result.
Henry Cloud writes,
“Those with greatest difficulty abandoning things are often those unable to face reality. Understand the lifesaving virtue of hopelessness. Get hopeless about what will not work.
Hope is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. With hope, we can endure almost anything. Hope keeps us going … and that is the problem. When it comes to seeing reality, almost nothing gets in the way like a hope distortion, in ether direction. Sometimes, people keep hoping in spite of a clear reality staring them in the face.
A desire without adequate grounds is merely a wish. Hope is not a strategy. In the absence of real, objective reasons to think that more time is going to help, it is probably time for some type of necessary ending.
If you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging.
Get to the virtue of hopelessness by seeing that there is no reason to believe that tomorrow is going to be any different than today. You will finally have gotten to reality. It is hopeless to continue to do what you are doing, expecting different results. The right kind of hopelessness gets us on the right track.
While hope is a great virtue, hope in unreality is not. Sometimes, hopelessness is the best virtue to have, because it can finally get you to the pruning moment.”From his book “Necessary Endings“.
I found these insights incredibly helpful when I was processing my own decision to make a significant vocational change just over 2 years ago now. It was hard and uncomfortable. It took time to process and there was a lot of wrestling inside my heart and mind. Gaining clarity was a long process.
Interestingly, the apostle Paul took time to seek God and read his own heart. Luke tells us this: “We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot (Acts 20:13).” Although he had eight other comparison on his journey (Acts 20:4), Paul chose to walk alone on this segment of the journey. This was a 32 kilometre walk for him. Was it on this walk that he decided it was time to say a final goodbye to those in Ephesus and move on (see Acts 20:1 then verses 17-22)? Maybe he was preparing his final speech. Either way, he took time to breath in some fresh air under open skies in an environment of solitude and space for thinking.
Walking is a great way to reflect and think about our life. Solitude helps us to turn down the noise of everyone else’s opinions and the clutter of the many distractions all around us. Is it time for you to take a long walk and think about the season you are in and whether an ending is coming in some area of your life? Is there something you need to ‘let go’ of? Could it be an unhealthy relationship, a dead-end job, a home that no longer serves your needs, a ministry that no longer stirs your passion, or the security that hinders you from the adventurous mission God is calling you to?
Read Part 4.