In our day-to-day experiences there really are no endings, only begin again-dings.
Here’s what I mean, certain specific relationships may end but relationships in general will continue. The bad habits I create in the relationships I’m in now will go with me even after I leave my current group. Ultimately, I can get away from certain people, but I’ll always have people around generally. I can start with a clean slate in a new context, but my habits, which I bring with me, are what form my reputation and I can’t really outrun my reputation forever.
Here’s an extreme example to illustrate this reality: when I was doing ministry in Toronto, ON we had a student arrive in the church. She told us her story, “I’m an orphan. I’m 19 and I’m about to lose access to the security of the foster system. I’m scared. Can you help?” We did. Within a matter of months, she was a beloved child of our church. The only problem was, she wasn’t who she presented herself to be.
She had been 19 once. When she was 19, it was not just a story, it was the truth. People had compassion for her (for good reason) and gave her the benefit of doubt by bringing her in and helping her out. Through this she’d gotten what she’d needed. Eventually, that help succumbed to the limitations of an unsustainable reality and she was forced to move on. Being still scared and desperate, she went to the next town over and shared her story, “I’m an orphan. I’m 19 and I’m about to lose access to the security of the foster system. I’m scared. Can you help?” And they helped too. The fact that she was now 20, not 19, was a detail she left out.
People in many towns and eventually provinces continued to help as she shared her story. But the more time passed the more elaborate the story had to become and the deeper she got entrenched in her own lies. By the time I heard her story, “I’m an orphan. I’m 19 etc.,” she was 28. We only found out when a police officer showed up with a picture and several warrants for her arrest. She was blessed with a youthful appearance, and we were all quick to fill in the gaps with an appropriately compassionate response, why would anyone doubt her story? When I placed the calls to try to locate her it was too late, she was already in the wind.
This poor girl was caught in a dramatic and extreme version of a cycle we all fall victim to – how we end this season determines where we start the next. Deception only grows. But honesty sometimes stings too. There are consequences that come from mistakes made and even blessings come with a cost – every new parent can appreciate this!
There are principles that govern the way the world works that cannot be violated, Galatians 6:7 puts it in black and white, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” I’m grateful the Holy Spirit directed Paul to write this out for us, because it’s impossible to miss.
Maybe you are coming to the end of a relationship, a career, a sport season, a school year. Or you’re rapidly approaching a milestone: graduation, college, marriage, kids, an empty nest. Or you’re being forced to deal with unforeseen circumstances: an injury, a betrayal, a diagnosis, a hurricane, a political shift. In each of these endings you can try to avoid the inevitable grief and loss associated with transition. If you do, you will likely find yourself grinding against this principle in uncomfortable ways.
Alternatively, you can surrender your story to God who superintends all things. We can lean into His mercy and grace as we navigate the changes we face. The change is coming regardless, you can’t stop that. But perhaps you can reframe the shift not as an ending, but as a begin again-ding. It won’t remove the pain of loss and sting of death, but it may remind you of one of the most important motifs of our Christian faith - resurrection.
Standing at the foot of the cross the enemies of God assumed they’d won. The onlookers thought it was over. But this was not the ending, it was only the beginning!