When I was in college, I tried to impress a young lady by taking her canoeing on a rapidly flowing stream. I chose a bad stretch of water, and within fifteen minutes we hit rapids that threw us against a large rock in the middle of the stream.
In an instant, the canoe turned sideways and was filling with water. I jumped onto the rock and pulled my friend to safety. By the time I turned back to pull my aluminum canoe around, the force of the water had wrapped it around the rock like a pretzel. It would never float again.
So there we were on a slippery rock in the middle of a rushing stream. Within seconds the young lady began to slip off the wet rock toward a large whirlpool on its downstream side. I tried to pull her back onto the rock, but quickly realized I lacked the traction to do it.
I instantly saw that I had only two choices: keep struggling to pull her back onto the rock, which would almost certainly result in both of us slipping into the whirlpool, or push her as hard as I could in the hope of throwing her over the whirlpool and into safer water beyond.
I quickly chose the latter option. I’ll never forget the look of shock and terror on her face as I let go of her wrists and pushed her as hard as I could off the rock. (She later told me she thought I was trying to kill her.)
I jumped in after her, and by God’s grace, we were both able to swim to shore down-stream. We were trembling from the icy cold water and bruised from hitting rocks as the current tumbled us along. But we were alive!
I walked away with two valuable lessons that day, which have been reinforced over the years. First, and most obvious, we should never lead others into risky situations that we haven’t thoroughly investigated.
Second, we all need to know when it’s time to let go of a preferred goal and push with all our strength toward more realistic outcomes. Sometimes that means resigning from a committee, project, or job rather than pouring time and energy into a misaligned or unproductive working relationship.
It could also mean advising a pastor to voluntarily step aside and pursue another pulpit in order to spare his church from a divisive congregational showdown.
Sometimes it will call for settling a lawsuit rather than going to court, or even accepting a divorce to preserve some measure of cooperative parenting rather than dragging a legal battle out for months.
None of these actions are appealing at first glance, and we certainly don’t want to give up on relationships prematurely (especially a marriage). Nor should we make such transitions in impulsive, careless, or disrespectful ways.
But if we have the courage to face the realities of life, we can often avoid destructive whirlpools. If we act with gentleness, honesty, and respect, we can usually make these transitions without severe bruising to our relationships. And when the turmoil of change is over, we will often discover that God has prepared outcomes that are better than anything we could have imagined.
The young lady I took canoeing never went out with me again. But not long afterward, I met Corlette. Today I thank God for twenty-seven years of marriage to the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known … who loves me in spite of the fact that I’ve flipped my new canoe twice with her on board.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted … a time to keep, and a time to cast away (Eccl. 3:1-2, 6).
– Ken Sande
- What are the likely consequences if you walk away from a challenging situation too quickly? (Luke 22:54-62) If you hang on too long? If you wisely persevere? (Ruth 1:16-17)
- If you are in a challenging situation, what steps could you take to discern whether it would be wiser to persevere or to let go? (Luke 22:39-43; Prov. 11:14)
- When you come to a crossroads and must make a difficult decision, what reassurance does Scripture provide? (Prov. 16:9; Isa. 43:2)
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© 2013 Ken Sande
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