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When the hard changes come, how can you affirm to yourself that you really did have another life? How can you believe that it was good and productive while also believing that the very different life you’re living today is just as good?
My friends Steve and Pam were a picture of letting go while hanging on. Pam had a fatal lung disease that took her to the edge of death before she received a lung transplant. In an emergency flight to Cleveland Clinic, it was evident Pam probably would not make it. In fact, before Pam boarded the flight, the doctor told this long-married couple that they might want to say their goodbyes, in case she didn’t survive the transfer. Amazingly, Pam made it to Cleveland, where she had a lung transplant. After many months of struggle, she and Steve returned to their home in Tennessee, and Steve, who had been with her every day of her hospitalization, took on the role of her caretaker. For three years, he cheered her on and did everything possible to enable her to hang on to life. He knew she was slipping away, but he wasn’t going to count her out until she was gone. Her situation grew worse, and another emergency flight took her back to Cleveland Clinic. For three agonizing weeks, Steve prayed and hoped and urged Pam to keep trying to live—to please, please hang on—but she just couldn’t. She wanted desperately to let go.
I saw them for a brief visit during that time in the ICU. As I walked into the tiny cubicle full of life-support equipment, I saw a husband in tears and a wife struggling to breathe. Her face was covered with a full oxygen mask from her forehead to her chin. The medical people had told them that she was going to be intubated shortly, which meant she wouldn’t be able to talk, so they were saying their last words before things changed again. They didn’t know how long they had. They didn’t know what other decisions they would have to make. They just didn’t know anything for sure, but they did know this season was bringing them closer and closer to letting go, forever.
Pam was eager to leave. Her fight to breathe had become too much, and while Steve couldn’t stand to watch her suffer, he wanted her to stay. He was letting go with his head, but his heart cried out for Pam to “keep trying, keep going!” He wanted to hang on.
A few days later, Steve called me and said, “Well, I think the time has come.” All efforts had failed. So, with their two children holding Pam’s hands, Steve prayed and quietly read from the Scriptures:
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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39
Their final day together had come. Pam breathed her last labored breath and was gone. Steve had to loosen his emotional grip as the finality of her loss became a reality. There was no longer any way to hang on. She was gone and there was no returning.
Life teaches that there are many nuances to letting go. Seasons roll by day by day, and as we mature, we learn that life really is one big exercise in letting go. Even if we’re in a time when we believe we can’t bear to let go, inside we know that every season only lasts for a while. Soon another change and another season will come.
If you and I are honest, in our hearts we usually equate the idea of “letting go” with sadness and pain. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Emotional struggle is just that—a struggle, not a finality. It is in the refusing to loosen our grip that the greatest struggles come. Once we let go, or the object of our affection has moved away or faded from our immediate attention, the skies clear and new possibilities come into view, if we let them. It is the process of passing time that opens the door for this to happen.
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But, you may ask, what about Pam and Steve? How can anything new come out of such a sad experience that ended in separation and death? Well, God has His ways, if we are open to them. As Pam breathed her last on this earth, she opened her eyes in a realm of experience none of us can begin to know or describe. I love these words from Don Wyrtzen's song “Finally Home” that come back to me every time I hear of the passing of someone who lived by faith.
Just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven,
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home.
How about you? Are you living in a world of “what used to be”? Or is it a world of “I wish things were different”? Do you look back and do more reminiscing than looking to what is happening today? Do you look forward, yearning for what you might be in the future? The reality is that “the good old days” and “what might be” don’t exist. Today is it! Today is the space you inhabit with God. He is the I am of your today. He lived in the past, He lives today, and He does inhabit your future—but you live today! The past is gone and you haven’t lived tomorrow yet, so your time is pretty closely defined by right now. To squander what’s in your hand will only bring a loss to you and those around you at the end of the day. So what are you doing with “now”? Are you fully absorbing the “today” that is? Asking yourself these questions every day will keep you centered.
Jan Silvious is a long-time speaker, professional life coach, wife, mother, and grandmother. She is author of eleven books, including Big Girls Don’t Whine and Fool-Proofing Your Life. Jan and her husband, Charlie, live in Tennessee, and have three grown sons, two daughters-in-love, five charming grandchildren and a very bright rescued pit-bull, Rocky-Buddy. Learn more at jansilvious.com.
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Taken from Courage for the Unknown Season by Jan Silvious. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com
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