The Bible references pruning, cutting off that which is not beneficial or fruitful, and bringing things to an end in order to promote new growth many times.
In Matthew 15:1-2, Jesus declares, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (NLT).
Another example of this occurs in the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, when Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden’” (Luke 13:6-7 NLT)
While the gardener decides to give it one more chance to produce figs, the tree that does not produce fruit was still cut down.
Even the death and resurrection of Christ represents the ending of things. Christ laid down His life in death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we might receive Salvation, be born again and have eternal life.
Clearly, things have to end in order to make room for change – for new things to happen.
A book that helped me understand the need to end things in order to produce growth is Necessary Endings, by Dr. Henry Cloud. In the book, Cloud challenges readers that in order to achieve the personal and professional growth they desire, they have to make those tough decisions that are standing in the way of a more successful business and, ultimately, a better life.
“Endings are necessary, but the truth is that we often do not do them well. Although we need them for good results to happen in life and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them,” Cloud writes in the book.
There are biblical undertones throughout and the book talks a lot about change: how people change or don’t change, and how situations can change or are impossible to change. But it helped me regain the perspective that necessary endings aren’t necessarily bad.
A few examples
One example of a necessary ending came from an assistant I had who had over committed herself with volunteering in so many areas that she was stressed out and didn’t have time for herself. She always ‘had to’ and never ‘got to.’ I encouraged her to evaluate what was most beneficial to her and which organization was really benefiting from having her then choose what to stop. After cutting out some of the activities a few weeks later, she came back and was a whole new person. She actually found her joy again and was able to really focus on being effective where she was volunteering and working.
For many, a new year can also mean a change of jobs. When an employee just isn’t in the right position and isn’t the happiest he or she could be, letting go could be doing both the employee and employer a favor. At first making a change can be difficult, but that employee may very well find the perfect job he’s best suited for that utilizes his gifts and talents best and brings him joy. And the employer is free to find the right person for that position that will be most effective for the organization.
We all have habits that we would love to lose or get rid of. Necessary endings for certain habits will allow for other habits to take place that we are excited about and bring change in our own life. But that necessary ending has to happen first because there’s only so much time and so much attention that we can give in our life to certain things. We all have 24 hours in a day – even though I still think I can squeeze out more.
As you begin to write, purpose, start or think through your goals for 2016, I encourage you to think about any necessary endings that also need to take place for the new things you are adding to successfully fit into your 24 hour day. Make room for life.