Have you ever had plans or dreams but through unforeseen setbacks, those plans and dreams were turned completely upside down and you felt like a part of your reason for living was taken away?
Have you ever been forced to make some hard decisions because of workplace issues or health issues or relational issues or financial issues and it put your life into a season of transition and into a time of losing your emotional and spiritual bearings?
When I reflect about ‘endings’ I realize they are a normal part of every life on earth. We don’t always like them though. In the book of Ecclesiastes it tells us there is a time for everything under the sun. It says there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… it continues on for a whole paragraph. Look it up in chapter 3. He continues eloquently with so much more, like a time to search and a time to give up searching, a time to keep and a time to throw away and so on. The wisdom of the writer of Ecclesiastes says “On this earth there beginnings and there are endings, necessary ones!” Sometimes the endings are forced upon us by circumstances outside of our control. At other times we need to be the ones to intentionally end something.
I think of that idea of uprooting. I have planted gardens and know the back-breaking investment of time and energy in that. The idea of uprooting is not contained simply to a garden. It’s about investment and nurture and relationships. There is a time “to uproot” things that you have nurtured for a long time. Does that sound hard? I think it can. I have literally “uprooted” my family almost a dozen times living as a missionary, both in Canada and Thailand. I know what it is to drive off after a farewell party given by people whom you have invested in for years. Driving off to waving people and then cry so hard that you can hardly see the road ahead is an all too familiar scenario in my life.
There are endings that we must play a part in. There are life situations when ‘goodbye’ is the best thing you can do. There are phases in our lives that need to be shaken off in order to enter a new phase. There are habits and behavioral patterns that need to be unplugged. Yet when we are put face to face with a possible uprooting, what makes it so difficult for us is the question of perspective. We think (we worry, we predict) that the outcome will be negative or too difficult, so we avoid, postpone, runaway from endings. It could be that most of our endings have proved so painful that we willingly stay in a less than preferred situation for fear of another painful ending.
I think life experience tells us that we can become best friends to things that are not in our best interest. There are things that should have ended a long time ago in our lives but because of uncertainty, or an unhealthy dependency or fear of losing our position or security in the future, we have remained in the same state of mind for far too long. Yet, and I repeat, endings are sometimes what the good Lord has prescribed and brings to us health and wholeness. It’s a positive thing.
When you have a tooth that is throbbing in your nerve center so hard that you can’t even think a coherent thought, it’s a good thing to get allow a wise dentist to prick and prod and finally pull that wisdom tooth from the root up. Yes it is painful. But it is what we call ‘pain with a purpose.’ As Dr. Henry Cloud states in his book, Necessary Endings, pain with a purpose is a whole lot better than pain for no good reason!
Losing can be gain.
Good News Translation
24 I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.
So understand well that the words, “The End” is not necessarily the worst thing that could happen to us, but often it is exactly what you need to have happen in order to experience the words: “A new beginning!” “A new freedom” “A new level of understanding” “A new sense of purpose and destiny.”
The cry of Jesus on the cross: “It is finished!” wasn’t a cry of despair that meant, “It’s all over with.”
The disciples thought it was over and done with, it was time to go back to the old job of catching fish.
Pilate and the Roman soldiers thought it was over and done with, no more craziness from the Jews for awhile.
Everybody else in the story thought it was over and done with, Jesus was finished.
But God and Jesus had the inside scoop, they knew something that none of them could fathom. This was no whimper on the cross, it was a victory shout! One more stage towards a new heaven and a new earth was accomplished. Soon there would be a new beginning, a new season, a new day, a new dawn. Yes, a new humanity was about to be birthed!!!!
In the past 12 months of my life I have made some life choices that were really hard for me. I laid down leadership of a community that I loved dearly, Newsong. Soon after I agonized over the decision to resign my role, after 12 years, as the Field Director with my Mission agency. A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the Field Rep office I loved and worked in and was feeling really lost. I had identified my life in these roles for so long that it defined me and gave me influence, respect and to a degree, control. And now I was feeling, while stuffing yet another leadership book in a box, like I was a powerless nobody. It was like falling off the ladder and restarting the climb from the bottom rung. Yes, I knew well that Patricia and I were going to start something new (Verge@50) out of our house, but even that seemed to be so insignificant in comparison to what I was doing all these years.
Then the Lord began to teach me all over about following. While now packing a few decorative items that graced my office, my friend Dave Gibbon’s came on-line and asked if I wanted to chat. At first I ignored him because I was in no mood to be cheered up. I was feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, let alone allow Dave to see me in this sad-sack state. Then Dave sent me this link of Ed Dobson’s story. And I stopped what I was doing and watched and sobbed as the truth of Ed’s life seemed to resonate in what I was feeling. Now I am re-learning that my main job and pursuit is following His, (Jesus) lead. Perhaps that is the greatest task of all of us, to learn how to follow personally. Maybe the word ‘leader‘ in our communities of faith should be used sparingly and the word ‘follower’ should better describe who we all are to be. For me losing is gaining when all you have lost is a position or title and you have taken the posture of learner, learning to humble yourself and follow in the footsteps of the living Christ. I haven’t thrown out my leadership books yet, but I think they may stay in their cardboard boxes for a few more weeks.