Last week I sent a birthday greeting to an old friend, Kevin, and member of the church I used to serve.

Let me re-share a quick life-changing story with you, and give you something new to consider…

“Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide note I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend, Carol, showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’ Her words were honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it. Suddenly I felt I had something to live for, and I started making positive changes. It’s been a journey, but Carol is now my wife and we’ve been happily married for 19 years. And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old university student pursuing a degree in medicine, has two younger brothers. I re-read my suicide note every year on the morning of my birthday as a reminder to be grateful—I am grateful I got a second chance at life.”

That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received from Kevin (and, with Kevin’s permission I am sharing it with you). Kevin’s words continue to remind me that sometimes you have to die a little on the inside first in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger, happier version of yourself.

Circumstances and people will occasionally break you down to the lowest of lows. But if you keep your mind focused on the positive, your heart open to love, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you can recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger and happier than you ever would have been otherwise.

Right now everything is changing again, nothing is certain, and you are free.

Everything in life is temporary. Nothing lasts. Every moment gives us a new beginning and a new ending. We literally get a second chance every second.

Every time it rains, it stops raining. Everything that goes up comes down. After darkness there is always light—we are reminded of this every morning, but somehow we don’t see it.

People all over the world are constantly telling their one heartbreaking story, about how their entire life has turned into an exercise in coping with one particular unfair event from the past.  Every present opportunity they have is then burned at the stake to fuel a fiery obsession with something that can’t be changed. The key is to realize that YOU don’t have to be one of these people.

You are a product of your past, but you don’t have to be a prisoner of it. You become a prisoner when you cling to what no longer exists. So remember that if you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. It may be hard, but you CAN let go… and to a certain degree, you must.

You have to let go and accept the feeling of not knowing exactly where you’re going next, and train yourself to love and appreciate this freedom.

Because it is only when you are suspended in the air, with no destination in sight, that you force your wings to open fully so you can fly. And as you soar around you still may not know where you’re traveling to. But that’s not what’s important.

What’s important is the opening of your wings. You may not know where you’re headed, but you know that so long as your wings are spread, the winds will carry you forward.

But, again, as I’m sure you’re aware, that’s sometimes much easier said than done.

Letting go and responding better in the present takes guidance and practice.

And no, it’s not easy. One of the hardest lessons in life involves the ability to change your perspective and let go—whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss. The change is always tough—you fight to hold on and you fight to let go. But letting go from the inside out is oftentimes the healthiest path forward. It clears out toxic attachments and clears the air for you to make the most positive use of the present.

You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from some of the ideals that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond them and the pain they bring you.

Take the time you need to get your mind right.

Seriously, if you are struggling in some way right now, do your best to keep in mind that although it might not seem so, better days are coming. The test always comes before the merit. The struggle always proceeds the strength. You have to endure breakdowns to break through them. Take it one day at a time, and trust the journey. It will make sense soon.

Learn to change your perspective and let GO…

And keep in mind that letting go isn’t about having the ability and courage to release the past—it’s about having the wisdom and strength to embrace the present. It’s not about forgetting—it’s about remembering without fear. It’s stepping forward, untethered, with a present mind and a lesson learned.

And always remember, you are not in this alone.  God is with you, within you and working through every situation and experience.  Just practice thinking better.

Rev. Mari Gabrielson