The entries for yesterday and today look at the idea of “endings”, and how we might react to that idea as it plays out in our lives. Today: How endings effect my spirit.
As I move through my seventh decade of life I’m more and more intrigued how ending-ideas worm their way into my thoughts. The current seasons of the calendar and liturgical years nudge me to make sense of these matters. Not just intellectually, but emotionally as well. I want endings to enliven my daily life.
As a person of faith, I find it hard to believe or imagine that there are endings that don’t have “what’s next” already built into their frameworks. I cannot fathom there may some ultimate ending after which nothing exists—a blank, impenetrable wall that halts all motion, all life, all hope.
Belief in the God who continually creates life, Jesus the Christ who redeems me from death’s finalities and the Holy Spirit who breathes possibilities into my soul—these convictions help me hold to the certainty that there is always another chapter to read/write, another path to travel, another horizon inviting my gaze. So I’m not bedeviled by endings as though they are some kind of ultimate put-down, a terminating force that closes me down, shuts me up or freezes me in place.
I also trust that some endings are really good to experience, to hope and work towards. The moment when evil sulks off into the darkness—that’s a good ending. The miracles of medicine that end suffering—they’re good. A moment of forgiveness or deliverance that ends my inner turmoil—really good! Seemingly sad endings also carry well-being inside of them, if only that they steel me to be steadfast and keep me humble about my place in life.
One mental picture I’ve carried within me for years has to do with exits—endings by another name. Walking out of a dark, dank cabin at the edge of a forest, I close the cabin’s only door. It locks behind me and my exit is complete. At the moment of this final departure, though, new entrances—new possibilities—appear on distant horizons. If I keep facing that door, perseverating about the finality of that departure, I can forget that any exodus invites me to travel away from here-and-now towards there-and-then. But the power of the exit/ending disappears only if I turn away from the door and move towards one of those horizons.
That’s how I think about all the endings coming at me—both negative and positive. No matter each day’s place in my lifespan, I’ll treasure it as a bundle of opportunities. As the deterioration of my eyesight has come to a miraculous end, I’m going to look more reverently and gratefully at everything and everyone around me. If deaths rob me of friends or family members, I will connect more often with those who remain. If gradual hearing loss is stopped in its tracks by hearing aids, I’ll stop withdrawing in social situations, and rejoice in the wonders of conversation with loved ones.
As each day ticks away, I will spend less time looking at the supposed finalities and more time rummaging among “What’s next?” likelihoods. During the day, my frequent prayers will be filled with fewer lamentations and more laughter. My head will look up, not down. I will take what God has given me and make something good out of it. I will live today as though it is the first one given me.
And when the moment of death comes, I will be ready to accept the grace of eternal life by walking towards Heaven in the same frame of mind: There is more to come.
The end is near. But not really….