Friday, June 24, 2016

Doing more than enduring

"Sometimes you get to what you thought was the end and you find it's a whole new beginning." (Anne Tyler as seen on www.facebook/tobymac) 

This is so true - we think we finally make it to the "end" of something only to find a new door opening where one is closing, another roller-coaster loop to traverse just when we thought we were done with "all that fun", or something totally unexpected and phenomenal that wows us and leaves us breathless in awe.  We might have even uttered the oft familiar words, "When will this ever end," and hoped with all our might for some resolution to come quickly. What we are wishing for is just for some "break" so we can catch our breath again.  We know the pressures will come again because as sure as we count on the peace, there is more of whatever gives us grief somewhere lurking just ahead!  Some authors will tell you as one book comes to an end for them and it is finally sent to the presses for publication, it as though they have given birth - but most of us realize that birth is just the beginning!  What is to come is not yet known - what will be birthed from what has been born is somewhere down the road.  Nothing truly comes to an end.

The words of the wise are like goads; the collected sayings of the masters are like the nail-tipped sticks used to drive the sheep, given by one Shepherd. So be warned, my child, of anything else that might be said! There is no end to writing books, and excessive study only exhausts the body. And, when all is said and done, here is the last word: worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:11-13 VOICE)

If things we counted on (or may didn't actually count on) reaching some sort of end really are just new beginnings, how is it we are to prepare ourselves to be ready for the next phase of what is to come?  I think the answer lies somewhere in how it is we begin to view "endings".  As I watch a movie on TV, it can spark a range of emotions from leaving me feeling "warm and fuzzy" on the inside, to having just a little sense of my nerve endings being on high alert.  Each ended, but one ended kind of "nicely", while the other left me with some unanswered questions, concerns I didn't really have before watching it, etc.  It is the purpose of the writer to "goad us" into some sort of response - like heartfelt tears, a sense of uneasiness, exhilaration over the endured thrill, or kindled desire.  Endings are then just new beginnings - bringing us to new places, with the experience of new emotions, and the whole gamut of questions which must be answered as we move on.

If we begin to see endings as beginnings, we might just face them a little bit differently - for when we begin to anticipate there is a new possibility awaiting us when one door closes and a new one opens, we are less likely to just stand there without knocking!  As our writer implies in our passage today, men go about making endless assumptions - often capturing these assumptions in books and in volumes of scientific publications, research articles, and summaries of posed philosophies.  We can exhaust ourselves with the "what ifs" of life - never really experiencing life because we are so caught up in finding an end that we miss all that comes in between!

As we await an "end", it is always best for us to remember what it is we are expected to do while we are waiting:  "Worship in reverence the one True God, and keep his commends, for this is what God expects of every person."  Reaching an end doesn't mean we cease the important activity of "obedience".  Obedience is not measured in having made it to the end, or through something "successfully".  It is measured by each "block" of obedience, one building upon the other - moving us from one "structure" to another.  All of life is about "adding to" and "taking away from".  We need to be attentive to add the right stuff and leave behind the other things which only get in the way and weigh us down needlessly.

Too many times we think, "Well, that is finally over," but God is thinking, "Well, now let's add a little bit of this, so you have the opportunity to add to what you just learned."  When we learn to see each ending as a new possibility for us to see something added to our present obedience, we might just see them as things we will do more than "endure through".  They will become the means by which we draw closer to God, learn of his great love, and hold closely to his hand as we navigate unfamiliar paths.  Just sayin!