The Embrace of an Ending
We're often slow to let things go. Each changing of the seasons reminds us that life is about endings and beginnings. But we can be reluctant when it comes to practicing this ourselves.
A person might stay in a soul-draining job for way too long because it pays the bills. Dating couples often stay in a dysfunctional relationship because it's easier than dealing with the issues and being single again. Someone might keep something going because ending it would be a blow to their perceived success and a hit to their ego. Or we might continue to pour ourselves into a failed venture because all we can see is how much we've already put into it.
That's why there's no guarantee that getting older makes you wiser or better. Sometimes it just makes you a crustier version of what you already were. How we respond to endings in our life is likely more significant than the endings themselves.
We have this challenge with expressions of church as well. I sometimes talk with Christians who feel as if a church closing is one of the worst things that could happen. I've come to see this differently. As Walter Brueggemann says in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, "Anguish is the door to historical existence, [and] embrace of ending permits beginnings."
We allow a new beginning in the embrace of an ending.
I talked with a pastor this week who shared her frustration about a leader in her denomination who was against planting new churches because many of the ones they had weren't doing well. It struck me as such a short-sided way to address a problem. Where will the new beginnings come from?
As Brueggemann continues, "The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings." If you're a Christian, you literally follow a person who embraced death to show the type of power He had in resurrection.
But you and I are often not great at embracing things that need to end.
It might be:
- An idea you've believed for a while that you need to let go of and acknowledge where you were wrong
- A way of surviving that worked in the past but is now holding you back
- An area of comfort that meets a need but is keeping you from growing
- A lie you've told yourself to protect you from the painful reality of the truth
- A difficult decision you need to make for a long-term benefit
- A friendship you had for a season that is no longer life-giving
I've spent the last three years learning to embrace a significant ending in my life that happened in 2020. I've found that the more I embrace the things that needed to end, the more I see Jesus breathe new life into me. I wish it were easier and quicker but embracing my endings often requires counseling and lots of time to think.
In his book, Life Is in the Transitions, author Bruce Feiler refers to these kind of moments as 'disuptors.' And according to Feiler, we have a lot of them. "The number of disruptors a person can expect to experience in an adult life is around three dozen. That’s an average of one every twelve to eighteen months."
You may be in the middle of a disruptor right now. So what needs to be embraced in your life?
"Only embraced endings permit new beginnings."
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