Election Day 2014 came and went, and millions of Americans experienced a sense of celebratory relief as vote tallies filled their TV screens and projections of winners and losers heralded the end of one political party’s control over half of the legislative process, and the initiation of the other party’s supremacy. An ending place was clearly marked in national politics, and while multitudes rejoiced, others grieved. The end of one set of conditions established the beginning of a different set of conditions, and the culmination of one set of challenges and opportunities brought the arrival of new ones. Funny how the end of one thing marks the beginning of another thing, isn’t it?
It reminds me of a guy I ran into once whose happy look couldn’t be missed. His whole countenance was just beaming. If he’d had one of those ‘mood rings’ that were so cool for a while back in the 60s, it would have glowed in the dark. You can’t not comment on that kind of expression, so I did. Turned out that his newfound joy was directly attributable to his wife’s greatly improved medical condition. “What a relief!” he exclaimed. “We’ve just come through the most awful time, and are so blessed that it’s over. You wouldn’t believe how many physical and mental adjustments were demanded during those long months.” Curiosity about her condition, accompanied with a desire to be compassionate, while at the same time heeding the Scriptural admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice, compelled me to ask, “What did she have?” “A boy!” he exploded. “And, let me tell you,” he continued, “that pregnancy thing was horrible—can’t eat this, can’t drink that, can’t watch any good movies because they might have violence and it could traumatize the baby. Never mind that the kid couldn’t see any of it from where he was, and if any bad words happened to sneak past us, he wouldn’t understand them anyway. Common sense stuff like that didn’t seem to matter. Music was never safe, either. Certain songs made her cry, which was apparently not a good thing at some points, but OK at others—only God knows how all that works, and He didn’t share any tips with me. Oh… and we couldn’t even drive past certain restaurants, because that might kick in some kind of craving—it was just terrible. There were probably some things she didn’t like, either,” he conceded, “but I didn’t ask about it for fear of making things worse. Finally getting her over all that was a red-letter day for sure.” “So…,” I responded thoughtfully, “She had a boy?” “Yep,” he said through his smile. “Well, let’s thank God her problem has been resolved and she’s finally symptom free,” I offered, “and I hope the little guy who caused it all is doing well, too.”
It’s fascinating how the end of a thing and the beginning of a thing can be the same thing. In my friend’s case, he was overjoyed that the sweet feeling of relief brought on by the end of the burdensome demands of the pregnancy coincided so nicely with the happy occasion of the birth of his son. His ‘Snoopy Dance of Joy’ over the one was indistinguishable from his ‘Snoopy Dance of Joy’ over the other.
A few days ago, in the midst of my running around, I noticed that the rays of the late-day sun had turned the clouds into one of those iridescent colors that are breathtaking, no matter how many times we see them. My automatic thought was, “What an incredibly beautiful sunset.” The thought brought with it a fresh realization of the obvious. If I had witnessed a similar view earlier in the day, I would have been just as impressed, but would have called it a beautiful sunrise instead. “Hmmm…” I said to myself. “God only has one mechanism to work with. He doesn’t have a sunrise thing and a sunset thing. The sunset I’m looking at is a sunrise for someone on the other side of the planet. He has to make both things happen with only the one mechanism.” How efficient—and how instructive.
It seems like we chase ‘ends’ all of our life—the end of parental authority over us, the acquisition of academic credentials, the end of the ‘single life’, finally getting the kids raised and out of the house, the last mortgage payment–retirement. We covet endings, but eventually we come to the realization that there’s always something that comes next—that some beginning waits behind it. The vision of finish lines is compelling, and crossing them even more so, but they can be deceptive. Finish lines are often indistinguishable from starting lines in appearance and location; it’s the reaction they call for in us that matters.
Jesus brought with Him a perspective of endings and beginnings that, like His very presence, brings the concept of eternity into this very temporal world. He definitely makes endings happen. The forgiveness that salvation brings, for instance, marks an end to the condemnation for our sins. Faith in His vicarious sacrifice brings an end to our futile struggle to meet God’s perfect standard and keep all of His commandments. The pain and suffering of this life will certainly come to an end, as will the presence and power of the devil whose initial rebellion lies at the root of it all. The evil that we have at times embraced, and at times struggled against, will eventually come to an end. Our very lives here as we know them will certainly end. But those ‘ends’ aren’t the whole story. There are new beginnings that come with them, and He is the single, sovereign Master over both.
In His last message to us, Jesus addressed the issue this way. “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:5-7 NKJV).
In the decision to follow Jesus Christ, endings and beginnings collide, and in that collision, we discover that eternity is already here. It’s coming to the end of our world, and finding at the same time a world of endless beginnings.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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