Endings and beginnings matter

Other than changing the date on my checks, the new year won’t change much for me. Each day of life just seems to blend in to the next. Few events really mark watershed moments that change us. But when I “package” my life into bundles with artificial boundaries like the celebration of New Year’s Day, I am better able to see growth and change. 2013 brought some changes for me and my family. Some of those changes will affect how I face my future; others I will intentionally leave in my past. 2013 was very different from any year I’ve lived before and any year I will face in the future. And now it is almost gone.

There is much about the past that I miss, but my childhood is over. Family vacations then required little more from me than to figure out how to pass the time in the back seat; now the packing and planning are my responsibility. My brother and I used to play outside my grandma’s house until we were called in for family dinner; now strangers live in my grandma’s house, and he and I cook for our own families. One of the greatest delights of my life was watching my boys grow up; now they are men. I do miss much of what “used to be”, but I wouldn’t give up “what is” in order to go back. It would be dreadfully sad to be unable to live in the present.

Annual events like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s give us the opportunity to measure time and life. These “artificial” boundaries give us better perspective on the choices we have made and how they impact the choices we need to make. Clinging to the past may leave us trapped in it. Refusing to let go of the past may leave our hands and hearts too full to take hold of our future. But we do need to be wise enough to take what we’ve learned in the past and use it to make better decisions for the future. Choosing joy in our new year may require that we intentionally leave regret and grudges in the past. Finding success in our new year may require that we learn from our mistakes.

Repetition of certain events, traditions or decorations often help us find comfort in our roots, but there seems to be a fine, ever changing line between repetition that brings us comfort and repetition that inhibits creativity and newness. Knowing when to let go and when to hang on is far more art than science, and only the most wise seem to be able to do it without regret.

One thing remains true. There is a new beginning wrapped up in every ending, and something must always end to provide a new beginning. Both are contained in the plots of our lives, and both must be handled intentionally. We are reminded of beginnings and endings at graduations and weddings and funerals. We try to capture them in pictures, and those events become the markers on our personal time lines. But we cannot just keep reliving them; we must move forward into what is next and new.

I am humbled and awed to see that God, not only understands this tension in us, but he has specifically identified himself as the God of all the beginnings and endings of our lives, and the beginning and ending of time itself. In his ceaseless effort to make himself known to us, one of the ways “I AM” defines himself is as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13 ), “The one who is, who was, and who is to come” and “the Beginning and the End”.

Wanting to hang on to what has been, and wanting to reach out for something new is a God given tension. God never intended for us to stay young and immature. Growth and maturity require endings and new beginnings. May the God who declared himself to be both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, tenderly guide us from the old into the new.