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Relinquishment: release your expectations

Let go of good things and open your heart to God's best

I struggle to let good things go. Whether an enjoyable activity, a pleasant place, or a cherished expectation, it’s hard to imagine the future without that particular thing making life good.

We just moved to Virginia after four years of living in Germany courtesy of the U.S. Army. Like most military families living in Europe, we had left plenty of belongings in storage stateside, most of which we didn’t need and hardly remembered after four years. But there was one special item we anticipated seeing when we returned home: our beloved old ski boat.

sunset on a day at the lake

Our family spent countless hours in that boat each summer, skiing and wakeboarding and tipping each other off towable tubes. The kids invited their friends and we taught them to ski, too. Many summer Saturdays would find us at the lake, cooling off while we made memories. We’d finish the adventure at a drive-through for hamburgers or chicken sandwiches and we all went home relaxed and happy.

When the weather was sweltering in Germany (we had no air conditioning there), I would cool myself by imagining a waterskiing trip in our boat. When we vacationed near a beautiful lake in Europe, Jack and I would talk about how fun it would have been to have the boat with us. When the kids talked about a family reunion after our overseas assignment, boating and skiing were always a key part.

two water-skiers, boating, lake
True love! Skiing hand in hand with husband Jack

Two weeks after our arrival back in the U.S., we took our boat to the marine mechanic for a tune-up. But the mechanic had bad news: the engine would never run again. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I shed a significant amount of tears over this news.

What was I mourning exactly? It was humiliating to feel the tears well in my eyes each time my husband and I talked about the condition of the boat. It’s a thing; it could be replaced.

I believe I was (and still am) mourning the passing of time—the before and after that we can see so clearly from a midlife vantage point. “Midlife is a war between our dreams and reality…” says Paul David Tripp in his excellent book Midlife and the Grace of God.

Philippians 3:7, knowing Christ, letting go
Download as a phone screen reminder of what's truly important in this life

My dream: upon returning to the U.S., I will spend many happy hours boating with my children—and now grandchildren—just like we have always done.

My reality: the boat is old and probably not worth repairing, we live 570 miles away from our nearest child and we don’t enjoy boating as much without the children, the Potomac river is conveniently close but not always clean enough for swimming and skiing, and we have limited leisure time and money to care for another boat that might not get much use.

My personal viewpoint of God and His goodness determines how I will settle this war between dream and reality. Do I trust God in this disappointment or decide to inhabit my disappointment? Do I hold on to the past or do I walk in hope into an unknown future? Do Iask God for wisdom and new opportunities to connect with the kids and grands, or do I insist that the old ways are the only ways to be together as a family?

I am opting to relinquish my dreams, albeit with tears, to a good God who knows what I need better than I do. I know this is the right step, although it brings me sorrow in the present. I am reminding myself that knowing Christ and trusting Him for my future is of greater value than hanging on to a past that can never be relived.

Does God want our family to be close to each other? Absolutely! Can our family connect without a boat? Of course! Will He guide us into new ways of being together? Yes. Convinced of His goodness, I am letting go of a good thing, and waiting in faith for the next perfect gift God has for my family and me.


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