A couple of things have happened recently that help me realize that you can’t make progress – in anything – unless you let go of something..
Two wildly divergent examples…
Some time ago, in Church, Pastor Dan told the story of another pastor who was baptizing a couple of boys, about 10 years old. The first boy got in, the pastor said the things pastors say at these kinds of events, he then supported the boy as he dunked him in the water.
That boy got out, there was applause, and then the minister looked to the other 10 year old and did this amazing double take, followed by said 10 year old doing a cannonball into the baptismal font, getting water all over the few parts of the minister that had remained dry after baptizing first boy, over the carpet around the baptismal, the microphone, the camera – everywhere.
There was no question as to whether this boy was going to be baptized, and like it or not, he was planning on taking a few people with him.
You know, in this instance, there was nothing wrong with that.
Now – shift gears for a moment – double-clutch, if you must… (this is going to be like going from 4th to reverse, at 55 mph).
At work I use a software program made by a little company east of Seattle that’s occasionally had a little trouble with the law back in the ‘90’s. I’ve used this program, or a very close variation of it since about 1998. That version of it fit me like an old slipper, or an old, very comfortable coat.
It was also woefully out of date.
It had been replaced by another version that, to be honest, I didn’t like. It was harder to use, it was cumbersome. Some people said it was fast, but it was just hard to use, and I didn’t like it…
To be honest, I went kicking and screaming into using the new version of the program.
I had both the new (icky) and the old (ahhh) versions of the program installed on my machine at work, and for some reason, the old one started throwing errors. And the thing is – they were the kind of errors that ended with some flavor of “contact your administrator…”
Unfortunately, that was me.
Seriously – I’m the guy people come to when there are errors like this – and they expect me to fix them… When it’s MY machine that’s throwing errors, it’s known, in technical terms, as “A bad thing.”
I was going to try to fix it by reinstalling it – which sometimes fixed things like this, but this time, it didn’t – and then I realized something that the second boy being baptized clearly had a grasp on.
I had to let go.
I had to let “it” go.
As long as I had that older program (my favorite), honestly, I was never going to learn the new one. I was always going to have an excuse to use the old one.
And if I didn’t learn the new one, I couldn’t move forward.
And so I uninstalled the old version, removing all shreds of its existence from my machine.
Back to young master Cannonball.
If he’d held onto anything – he couldn’t have made it into the water.
If he hadn’t made it into the water, he wouldn’t have been baptized.
And if he hadn’t been baptized, he would not have been able to move toward his goal, which was moving forward in his walk with Christ.
And thus… the cannonball.
Me? Well, my situation involved a lot less water, and a few more electrons.
Just in the first few days after I forced myself to let go of that old program. I learned so much.
I mean, in spite of how bad the User Interface (the part of the program you see and interact with) for the new program was, I could still write code for it like I was used to writing. When I say “writing code” – it’s computer programming code – for databases, not code as in “secret code” – and while it can be complicated to understand, the way you get it into the computer is just typing. I just had to get used to some of the new things you could do with it, or new things I could type.
It turned out that the new version of the program could indeed do new things, or old things in new ways. This was good, but it meant that code written in that new way wouldn’t run on the old version of the program.
With what I learned, I wrote smart code, so it would check to see what version of the program was on the machine it was running on (we had many machines with this program on it), and then run the code that was appropriate for that version (new or old). It was amazing. By doing that, I could learn the new code, let go of the old, but still keep the old machines running with this new, flexible code. I could write good, flexible code once, and then use the very same code to run on any of the machines we had, regardless of the version of the program that was running on it.
It was like learning a new language, but still being allowed to use the old one when you needed to.
I made progress in ways I would never have if I’d stayed in that – that very comfortable old coat.
It got me to thinking, how many of us hold on to what’s comfortable when we would be better off letting go of things that we don’t need anymore, or that we’ve grown past.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I completely suck at letting stuff go (one of the reasons my car is getting letters from the AARP)
This whole letting go thing? It’s an active thing, and there has to be wisdom involved (which I’m still learning about), but bottom line?
We have to actually do it.
In order to grow, to learn, we must learn to let go, while thoughtfully discerning what we must let go of, whether it’s old habits, grudges, material things, or sometimes even relationships that clutter our lives and hinder our growth.
Sometimes it means doing something fairly dull, like using a new program at work.
And sometimes it means doing something dramatic, like doing a cannonball into a baptismal font.