In August of 2023, I experienced a first in my life. At 47, a diminishing number of these are left, as my kids quickly remind me. And so I relish the firsts when they come.

Except this one. This one, I didn’t. At least not initially.

This first was my oldest daughter graduating from high school and heading to college. It was time for Dad to let go just a bit more. And that’s difficult. It’s not that I didn’t trust God to take care of her or trust her to make wise decisions. I believe her mother and I raised her the best we could, and I’ve always said that if we do that, we can trust God with the rest. So that wasn’t the difficulty. The difficulty was the process required when I had to admit that a season of life had died. Yes, that sounds morbid. But is crucial to our conversation.

To help with our conversation, I’ll turn to Pixar movies. Seriously, they are so good with this kind of stuff!

Up

In the Pixar movie Up, the main character, Carl, becomes a widower, losing Ellie, his wife. He struggles, facing the difficulty of letting go. So he doesn’t. Carl desperately attempts to keep their house as it always was, somehow holding his hand in Ellie’s. This lasts for a while until his mailbox is knocked over; he attacks the person responsible and is forced to resign to a retirement home.

Only Carl is stubborn. Unable to admit a season of life has died, he ties hundreds of helium balloons (Carl sold balloons) to his house and lifts the house toward Paradise Falls, where he promises to take Ellie while she was still living. Little does he know that Russell, a young explorer, has smuggled himself into the house.

I’ll try not to spoil the story too much, so if you haven’t seen it, maybe stop reading, watch it, and then finish reading. Anyway…You’ve been warned!

Carl finally reaches Paradise Falls, but not without some trouble along the way. Entering his house after finally landing, he sits down and opens Ellie’s adventure scrapbook. It’s a tear-jerking moment. I’ll admit…I cried…a lot. He leafs through the pages of her childhood adventures and gets to the page seen earlier in the movie that’s titled…

“Stuff I’m gonna do” Stuff Ellie was gonna do.

Earlier in the movie, these pages were blank, ready to be filled with adventure! Carl tears up and begins to put the book away. But one of those blank pages slips through his fingers, and he sees their wedding picture. Then, a picture of a birthday and working on their house. Over and over, he flips through the pages until he gets to one last page that has a picture of Ellie with her note to him that she wrote just before she died.

“Thanks for the adventure! Now go have another one.”

Moments later, trouble strikes, and Carl has to make a decision. To make a long story short, Carl has to unload all the stuff in the house that he’s so carefully guarded and held onto for so long, all so the house will float again and he can help Russell, Doug the dog, and a big bird.

Slowly, you see Carl begin to let go. The final act resulted in him letting go of the house he and Ellie fixed up to save what was in front of him.

Russell and Doug.

They become the new adventure. The new perspective. The new season. Carl lets go, something dies, and he gains something new. And in typical Pixar fashion, the movie ends well, leaves you emotional, and prompts questions about your life.

Solomon

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes not a movie but a statement that does very much the same, leaving us a bit emotional and asking deeper questions about our own lives

Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. Ecclesiastes 7:3

Sorrow is a part of life, and Solomon acknowledges that. Solomon is not saying that sorrow is fun. That mourning is fun. Or that letting go of a season of life is fun. They are not fun. Sorrow isn’t fun. I get it. It’s not supposed to be. It comes when we lose someone, a dream, health, a friend, and yes, a season of life. In short, sorrow comes when something dies.

However, Solomon is saying that those who endure those times of life when sorrow happens, when embraced, find that it gives birth to new things and new ways of life. Perhaps a new perspective. This is where a sad heart may be happy.

When we see it as a process, we become available for something good. Something new. Something different. Maybe it’s new passions that awakened that weren’t there before. Perhaps new opportunities, new seeds, new things to learn.

Ultimately, it culminates in new growth. We mature. Character is produced that wasn’t there before. But for new growth to happen, something often needs to be lost. Something needs to be let go of. Something needs to die. This is the process and must happen because as long as we are holding on to what’s behind us, we can’t take hold of what’s ahead.

I wonder if this process of dying and allowing something to die goes beyond just seasons of life – like dying to self, submitting to God, and allowing Him to do His work in us to grow us. Maybe it’s more about what I give up so I gain what I needed, but didn’t know existed. Perhaps it’s precisely in letting go that I grow. But often, for that to happen, something has to die.

I had to let go

I had my period of mourning, so to speak. I cried. It took some time. But eventually, I let a season of life die. And what did I eventually discover?


Growth.

Growth in finding a new season was ready to be embraced. Relationships were different, but different doesn’t mean bad. They were better. I found personal growth with God, myself, my wife, and my other daughters. Yes, it’s a new season. Yes, something died. But my heart was made glad.

And yours can, too.

So…I’m curious…Is there something that needs to die for you for something to grow in you? Maybe it’s something you’ve held onto for quite a long time that needs to be thrown out. An old habit, perhaps? An old way of thinking? A dream? A relationship? Whatever it is, know that God doesn’t leave you alone. He helps you through the process. He does this through community. Through the church. Through small groups. And all through engaging His Word in all those contexts. Bottom line? He does it through each other. As hard as we try, we can’t accomplish this by ourselves. We need each other because it’s others God uses to accomplish what needs done.

You are loved!!