Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” isn’t exactly a pensive song. At first glance, it seems like nothing more than a celebration of a perpetual drunk fest on some Mexican beach. But tucked in the lyrics is a slow, somewhat poignant, realization: As he considers his Margaritavile demise, the singer first claims it was “nobody’s fault,” then “…it could be my fault.” And finally, the epiphany, “It’s my own damn fault.”
Oi vay. I can relate this slow grind to humility, especially when it comes to knowing when to walk away. When I was a young teacher, I was surprised to so readily see among my colleagues the ones who had stayed too long. I remember telling Barry, “Please remind me to quit when I don’t like the kids anymore!”
But sometimes we are the last to see when it’s time to go, aren’t we? Ecclesiastes says, “There’s a time to keep and a time to cast away.”
Wisdom is about knowing when.
When is it right to let go of whatever we are holding onto? A job? A person? A dream? A grudge? A personal war? I don’t always know, do you?
I do know this: Hang on too long, and the misery that ensues is often my own fault because I’m only hanging on out of fear, comfort…even laziness. I may even have legitimate grievances to pin my frustrations to, but the truth is that I have outstayed the grace I was given to deal with them. Without that grace, the weeds in any human interaction eventually wind round our necks and choke the living daylights out of us.
Knowing the “when” is hard, though. I’m often too close, too tangled in the weeds to see. I do know this much. It’s time to walk away if–
1) My only reason for remaining involves fear, laziness, or the desire to be comfortable
2) My “round” self just no longer fits the ever-tightening square hole of my circumstances
3) I’ve made a god of the thing or person I’m clinging to–and I’m trying to squeeze life, or affirmation, or provision from it, when I should be trusting God for those things instead. Ugh.
I’d love to know how others deal with this question, though. As you think about letting go, what determines your “when”?