When It’s Time to Let Go

by Ann Sullivan

We have all heard of the importance of tenacity–hanging tough, being bold, or “pressing on,” as the Apostle Paul puts it. But as with all things, there is another side. There is a time for giving up or letting go.

When my son was 5 years old, my husband thought it was time for him to learn how to water ski. His sixth birthday was fast approaching, and according to his father, the boy was almost over-the-hill.

My husband had learned how to ski at his aunt’s lake house when he was young. He’d mastered all sorts of trick-skiing, including slaloming (his spray was phenomenal), knee-boarding (no wonder he needed them replaced), and bare-footing (nature’s not-so-gentle enema.)

Now, with big plans for his own son, my husband was fast becoming the poster-child for overzealous parents.

One day, after launching his Spydercraft into Garrett Bay, he dove into the crisp water to tighten my son’s skis. I watched as both heads bobbled up and down and my husband gave last-minute instructions to a boy who wished he were anywhere but behind a boat.

It was my job to film the big event. So, I was locked and loaded when I heard my husband yell, “Hit it!”

Like most novice skiers, my son immediately wiped out. But for some reason, instead of letting go of the rope, he held on. Even as my cousin swung the boat around to retrieve him, he clung to the rope, dragging himself face down through the water. He nearly drowned himself.

In unison, we yelled for my son to let go of the rope, and what felt like a lifetime later, he finally did. Waterlogged, panicked, and gasping for air, he finally let go. This marked the beginning and the end of my son’s stellar skiing career, much to his father’s chagrin. But like most dreams, this one was hard to let go of.

Safely back in the boat, I listened as my husband did his best to persuade my son to give it one more try. But, alas, his words fell on deaf ears, and I told him to get a life.

Later that day, snuggled up with me on the couch, I asked my son why he held on to the rope even after he’d fallen. Looking back now, what he said next actually shed light on the next 20 years of his life.

One day, the winter before, we’d all gone to Hill 17 for a day of sledding. Hill 17, literally the 17th hole on the Peninsula State Park Golf Course in Wisconsin, is steep. It’s been a great toboggan run for my family for many generations. But because times change and toys improve, that day, we brought several new snow tubes to make the ride faster and perhaps even save a few tailbones in the process.

As my 5-year-old got ready to make his first run, I heard my husband give him one instruction, “Don’t let go.” And he didn’t. In fact, he held on so tightly, that when he flew down the hill and hit a bump, he was literally launched into the air and did an amazing, 360-degree loop before sticking a perfect landing.

He was so shocked, he didn’t know what hit him. But even Shaun White would have been impressed.

As he reminded me of that day, I realized what had happened. Somehow, his instructions for sledding got mixed up with his instructions for skiing, and he did not let go.

Sticking with something and not giving up is a powerful character trait. Interestingly, I’ve watched my son live by the instructions he was given on Hill 17. Consequently, he excels in almost everything he does because he doesn’t let go of the rope easily.

Some of us give up too quickly and sell ourselves short. We sell God short, too. As Thomas Edison put it, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

But others of us refuse to recognize when it’s time to let go. This could be the result of a personality trait. Some of us are just bolder by nature than others. Or it could be because every teacher, coach, and motivational speaker we’ve ever listened to has told us to never give up. We’re told we can do anything we set our minds to.

But that’s not always true. Sometimes, a little soul-searching and quiet meditation allows God to tell us when it’s wise to give up and move in another direction. Sometimes, it’s right to shake the dust off our feet (Matt. 10). It could be time to let go of the rope and find the fresh air that’s right there.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1


Ann Sullivan is an author, speaker, and blogger. Download her new free study guide for Permission to Doubt (Kregel). And watch for Ann’s next book on our universal search for contentment. Website: www.anncsullivan.com | Blog: www.annsullivansimpletruths.com