Endings and beginnings
“Where did the summer go!? I can’t believe it’s already August!”
Over the last few days, I’ve heard these sentiments (or something similar) several times. There’s something about turning the calendar to August that signals the rapidly approaching end of summer. Soon enough, kids head back to school, our daily routines look a bit different, and we’ll reflect back on the past few months of rest and play, gardening, vacations, camps, or other adventures.
We say it every year about this time. No matter how hard we try to make time go slower, we’re left wondering how these past months flew by so quickly. It’s almost as though there’s a bittersweet feeling in the slow but inevitable transition from summer to fall.
And yet, in a strange sense of irony, it’s exactly the change of seasons that makes us appreciate the gift of summer. If we never had a single rainy or cold day, would we come to appreciate the warm and sunny summer days as much? Well, I imagine a few snowbirds might disagree with me there.
But, in all honesty, isn’t so much of what we love and appreciate precisely because it’s fleeting? We try to soak up sweet moments with our children because we know they won’t stay little forever. The adage is true that the days are long but the years are short.
Or we move a little bit slower on our way home from a good vacation because we know what’s waiting for us is a return to some monotony of daily life. It might be why some of us save the “best” bite for last on our dinner plates… wanting to savor the delicious food for as long as possible before it’s all gone.
The very fact that there’s a change or conclusion is what causes us to try to appreciate everything leading up to it. In the words of poet Wallace Stevens: “Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.”
And yet, as people of faith, we don’t have to dread a particular ending because it is, in its own way, also the start of something new and good. God promises that just as sure as every day comes to an end, it also signals the dawn of a new day, with new mercies and fresh possibilities. Or the book of Ecclesiastes assures us there is a time for every season—and with each season brings different experiences of God’s presence among us.
Yes, we might lament our aging as time goes by or wish we could keep our kids little forever. But we also get to look forward to what adventures the next stage of life might hold. Vacations are wonderful. But what joy and goodness do we get to discover in our day-to-day lives once we return?
It’s almost human nature to resist change or delay endings. But it’s also the very act of transition that tells us God is preparing us for something new. With every turn of the calendar page or difficult goodbye, we get to have both gratitude and hope. We give thanks to God for what has been. And then, with hope and joy, we look ahead to what’s just beginning.