Holding On & Letting Go

I’ve decided to write a series of blogs about how we are like trees in God’s forest. I started in my previous blog, titled Resolutions and Roots. It was only a matter of time before I started a series like this – I make no secret about my love of trees. I’m going to look at different aspects of ‘tree life’ in each blog and use it to demonstrate how we can try to live our best tree life. I realise this is starting to sound odd now.

This particular blog is about holding on and letting go.

I was walking the other day through a wooded area and noticed that some trees were still holding on to their brown and crisp autumnal leaves. I looked around and noticed there were a small handful of trees that still held on to their leaves, whereas the rest had dropped theirs to the floor of the copse.

It struck me as odd on two points: 1) why hadn’t I noticed this before? I’d walked through the wooded area several times and hadn’t noticed these leaves and 2) why hadn’t the leaves fallen? We’re now in the deep of winter – they should have fallen months ago.

Now, I love trees, but I’m no botanist. I don’t understand the science behind these things happening, but I can make some assumptions (I should’ve listened more in biology and geography at school). I know deciduous trees drop their leaves in Autumn and they regrow them in Spring, it helps them survive the harsh winter months. (I don’t know why – something about water?) I can assume that the decomposing leaves will provide great food for the trees (circle of life? I definitely learned more from Disney than high school biology). So why hold on to a leaf or two? Are the woods close enough for the wind not to have knocked them? Or no one has walked near them to knock them off? I’m completely stumped by that one (tree pun intended).

But it made me think – it’s better for the trees to let those leaves go. They drop their leaves for a reason (though that reason is clearly beyond my knowledge on this topic). Holding on to those leaves is counter intuitive. Have a think about your life for a minute. Is there anything that you are holding on to that you should be letting go of? Would it be healthier for you, like it would be for the trees, to let go of those old things in your life?

The apostle Paul had a lot to say to us about this through the letters he wrote in the bible:

In Hebrews, he writes: “1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

In Philippians, he writes: “13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Some things are really difficult to let go of – and I’m not saying you’ll be able to let go of it instantly. But praying for help everyday and asking God for the strength to be able to let go, and to help you heal is something you can do today.

I read a book last year that changed my life – and it might change yours too (it’s worth picking up a copy if you can) and one of the final chapters really gave me something to think about and dwell on.

Brian Houston is one of the founders and global senior pastors of Hillsong Church and in his book ‘Live Love Lead’ he talks about how he frequently finds himself in airports – traveling between terminals, going all over the world visiting the various campuses of Hillsong Church and visiting other churches to speak from the Word of God. In doing so – he expresses in his book his love of the invention of escalators and moving walkways, and how they get him from A to B so much faster.

“I found myself riding on an escalator with hundreds of people ahead of me, when I suddenly heard a serious commotion happening up ahead. A petite-framed lady wearing a burka was approaching the end of the escalator clearly in a panic, unsure how to transition back to the stationary floor. Apparently, she had never seen a moving walkway before and she wasn’t sure how she was meant to step off. So as the escalator came to an end, she took a tiny step onto firm ground and just stopped in her tracks. The problem was, everybody behind her still had momentum and nowhere to go – creating a domino effect. Luggage, purses, children, and passengers sprawled everywhere as they were unable to halt their continuing forward motion. The walkway had ended, but the lady wasn’t supposed to stop.

“And therein lies the moral to this story. When something’s over, don’t stop. The end of an era is not the completion of a destiny.” (Excerpt from ‘Live Love Lead’ by Brian Houston)

These quotes encapsulate what you should be doing to be a healthy tree in God’s forest: in order to continue growing to your full potential, you need to continue moving forwards and upwards. To keep growing, you have to trust God to help you let go of harmful things that have had their season. How do you know when the time has come to let something go? In my experience – you just know. You hold on because it’s familiar, or easy – not because it is right.

Remember that letting go doesn’t mean it’s not a part of you. In the same way that the leaves from a tree decompose into the soil and feed back into the tree, that thing you’re holding on to that might be holding you back will still be a part of you. It’s shaped who you are and brought you to this place, it’s still fed back into you, but you’re preparing yourself for the next steps.

So pray into it – ask God for guidance for your next steps, ask him for help to let go of the things that are really difficult (sometimes you need to start with baby steps rather than zero gravity moon steps), and know that whatever happens – Spring is coming, and new growth is on the way.

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