Let it Go: Why Holding on Isn’t Always Such a Good Idea

Let it Go: Why Holding on Isn’t Always Such a Good Idea December 1, 2016

Three years ago I unloaded my 1956 Chevy. As the buyer loaded it up on the trailer, the groans from the old girl were loud. I watched it go down the road on the trailer like a regal queen, sitting high above the traffic.

It was my first car, brimming with memories. Part of the family for more than 40 years, it wasn’t easy to send it away. But the truth was that I would never be able to accumulate the money to replace the rusted floorboards and pitted chrome. The engine belched smoke and the transmission shifted erratically. It would have taken a fortune for its restoration. The kids, now grown, had no interest. So, it was time to cut my losses.

I gained a spot in the garage, some money in the bank, and freedom of my time.

My Chevy's last day.
My Chevy’s last day.

The unexpected blessing has me looking around. What other things am I holding onto for nostalgia sake, cluttering up my life?

I lost my favorite hat once and was upset for days. But then, after looking at a photo with me wearing it, I realized just how ugly it was. Why was I so upset that it was gone? Losing it was like a winning a ticket out of Dorkville!

Let go of loss

But life is more than losing hats. The unwilling loss of health, relationships, and love mark my past, like ugly ink stains on a well-worn shirt. To be honest, it’s hard to bow my head and give praise for all of those things. But the mere fact that I lost something is an acknowledgement that I had it to begin with. I was blessed for a season, and that’s worth something.

The truth is that loss has a way of creating gains in my faith. Those cherished things that I held like a kite string in a storm are better to let go so I can be free to pursue growth.

We hold on to unhealthy relationships, go to churches that suck the joy out of our faith, and grip tightly traditions that only makes us feel proud that we are keeping up a good image. That’s not gain – that’s stagnation.

Photo by David Cohen, permission via CCLI
Photo by David Cohen, permission via CCLI

If you want to gain, you must lose

This principle is at the very core of the Christian faith and Jesus’ teaching. “Whoever wants to gain the world, must be willing to lose everything.”

It separates us from the world that is hell-bent on gain, no matter what the cost. It separates us from those who adhere to religion over relationship. It separates us from ourselves.

Some of the things I’ve surrendered have been done out of spiritual discipline or personal conviction. I’ve given up things that weren’t healthy for me at the time, like alcohol, chocolate, television, and red meat. And to protect my relationship with God, I’ve run from pornography, turned away from destructive relationships, and won the battle over lifetime habits. Those losses – and others – have ushered in greater gain into my life.

Every single man who marries has to make a choice. While he gains a wife and a relationship, he might have to relinquish certain treasures from the bachelor life. With a touch of remorse, I gave up a useful, but ugly green couch, a velvet “Elvis the King” poster, and a motorcycle that produced more smoke than RPM.

I’ve given up other cherished things throughout the years so that I could move ahead financially, mentally and spiritually. I’ve quit jobs, relocated to different towns, changed churches and found different circles of friends.

Now to be clear, I wasn’t always happy to give these things up. (I loved that couch!) But the exchange for an improved life situation or character was the promise. It’s easy to thank God for the gains in life, to cheer achievement, and to praise blessing. But how often do I rejoice in the things I’ve given up?

Releasing the grip

I tend to hold on to things pretty dearly. My money, my time, and my status are gains that I’m not so eager to let go. Wresting these things from my grip can be painful.

The tight clutch I have on possessions is especially exhausting. I came from a poor family.

My father, a roofer, worked alone, climbing ladders into his 70’s, pounding his living out nail by nail. We lived with daily bread, trusting God along the way. As a foolish teen, I wanted no part of that lifestyle. So I pursued jobs with benefits and security.

But here I am, approaching a half century of life, and that quest for security seem almost futile. What was it worth?

I am at a place now where I am comfortable with the world, my place in life, and my future. I can even give thanks for the things I’ve given up, even in disobedience or out of God’s will.

I’ve gained love, and lost it.

I’ve gained friends, and lost them too.

I’ve gained wisdom, only to chuck it away in one foolish act.

Yet God is still finding a way to work, in spite of me.

It almost seems that the balance of life constantly has the fresh water pouring in, while the old stale water dribbles over the edges.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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