Tomorrow is the last day of work for my husband at his current ministry; on Thursday, he will begin his new role as Interim Teaching Pastor at a daughter church about ten miles down the road.
Earlier this spring we both read the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. This was during a season of focused prayer about our future, and we could not have discovered this book at a more opportune time. If you attended last month’s Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, you heard Cloud talk about some of the ideas in the book; however, I would still strongly recommend that you read the entire book to dig even deeper. Here are some of the highlights:
- “Whether we like it or not, endings are a part of life….For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them.”
- Growth requires pruning.
- There are three kinds of pruning or necessary endings in life: 1) Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones; 2) Sick branches that are not going to get well; 3) Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.
- Pruning should be applied not only to entire company or life, but to the details such as how we spend our time.
- To move forward, we need to see endings as a normal occurrence instead of as a problem.
- A healthy view of endings involves accepting: 1) The reality of life cycles and seasons; 2) That life produces too much life (anything that is alive and thriving will grow so much that it requires pruning!); 3) That incurable sickness and evil exist; in other words, some people and situations will never change.
- Pruning can be painful, but it is pain with a purpose.
- It’s important to understand the difference between wishing and hoping: wishing is a desire that is not based on reality, while hoping is a desire based on real, objective reasons to believe that change will occur.
- Cloud contends that hopelessness is a lifesaving virtue because it means you are in touch with reality and will be motivated to go ahead with the pruning or necessary ending.
- In order to determine whether people are able to change, you need to know whether they are Wise, Foolish, or Evil. (This was one chunk of his talk at the Summit.) You must deal with each one in different ways.
- Wise people: When truth presents itself, they see the light, take it in, and make adjustments.
- Foolish people: Try to adjust the truth so they do not have to adjust to it.
- Evil people: Desire to hurt people; you must protect yourself, create a necessary ending, and have nothing more to do with them.
- A mature person will recognize incompatible wishes: for example, expressing a desire for change but being unwilling to deal with the conflict that change requires. You must decide, “Which one [wish] am I willing to give up to have the other one?”
- When it’s time to end something, do your best to end it well: begin with the end in mind, seek support, practice and role-play, and embrace the grief, which is a healthy part of letting go.
In the case of our impending ministry transition, Dave and I realized that we needed to make a change to a different system so that our gifts would have opportunity to thrive. Although this necessary ending was difficult in some ways, we worked hard to finish well and are ready to begin a new chapter in our life and ministry.
What is a necessary ending that you need to make in your own life, ministry or relationships?