Lots of wrapping up these days. I am a week away from finishing a degree program, several of my piano students are performing in their end of the year recital today, and my kids are mere hours away from finishing their respective grade levels. Ending things can feel incredibly freeing, like when the weight of the load of papers and constant homework is lifted. I have a vivid image of the pilgrim in “Pilgrim’s Progress” setting his burden down. I haven’t read the story in years, but I remember as a child wishing he could just take that huge load he was carrying off. Yesterday, my world felt lighter and it occured to me that I have been living with the constant reality of things that are due. It struck me that this nagging feeling that I have an assignment or paper on the horizon is nearly over. The end is in sight.
With that, there is accompanying excitement around new beginnings. Summer in Sun Valley is the best season. Long days of sunshine, hikes in the morning, grandparents in town, dinners outside, and kids who get a break from their studies. Potential backpack trips, fishing, bike rides, picnics with live music, and summer birthday parties. After a long winter of hunkering down, we are free to play and frolic without the weight of layers. It is joy to stand on the edge of anticipation and consider all the possibilities, even if they are not actualized.
Life is certainly a dance of finishing and beginning. New work comes our way, and we begin with enthusiasm. New relationships are developed and we ride the high of first loves. New hobbies are introduced and we focus with engagement. It’s adrenaline for sure. Looking retrospectively at finishing, there’s a satisfaction and a cathartic contentment that can accompany the ending of something. When artists finish a project, or a long-time employee retires, or a parent watches their child graduate the fusion of joy and sorrow entwine. Conversely when things end abruptly, those are the moments where waves of emotion can become overwhelming. Unlike my gradual completion of a degree, I think of the sudden loss of life. I think of a co-worker who sent their husband into surgery and something went wrong. The dilemma of choices now faced are wholly other than they were a few days ago.
Of course, I can’t dwell on beginnings and endings without considering the book of Genesis where God finishes the work of creation and surveys his work with great pleasure. It is all “good” and “very good.” Then God rests. While I have heard several theological takes on this 7th day of rest, I like the idea of God pausing to take it all in: the implications of the life that was created. God pausing to dwell with anticipation on all the new beginnings, wrapped up in the drama of accompanying joys and pains that come with new life. If God knew it all and declared it good, then there is no aspect of beginnings or endings that falls outside this realm of goodness. (This includes the in betweens.)
Most of us live in the in betweens. The roller coaster rides of beginnings and endings are interspersed with long stretches of flat or mild twists and turns. How do we live well in it all? How do we carry our periodic loads that feel weighty? How do we celebrate new beginnings? How do we handle abrupt endings? Can we see it all through the eyes of God’s goodness? The secret Paul shared in his letter to the Philippians was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The beginnings, the endings, the in betweens…Christ invites us to walk it all in His strength.