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I enjoy seasons and new beginnings. I especially like spring for this reason as I watch for the crocuses to pop, bright daffodils to emerge, then tulips, and oh, the heavy, drooping lilacs. There is green that arrives seemingly overnight, lush across the trees and the long-dormant grass. One by one, seamlessly and pleasantly arriving like clockwork. We live and breathe gratitude over the commonness of seeing in color again.
I have to say, however, that even as spring rushes into being, I often have my eyes on the thermometer. My children too. We are looking toward summer, its heat. I yearn for the nighttime racket of bugs whirring and chirping in heavy air. I await the full-grown garden, the juicy red tomato, the ice cream that drips down my elbow before I can catch up with the melting.
We tend to be people who always look forward. We long for that which will come next. This is our nature after all, isn’t it? We are resurrection people. I’ve often considered the forward momentum vibe of our society and world to be connected to our inherent design and nature — our resurrection nature — to seek after that which comes next.
But, in my own life, when I fix my eyes and energy on the next thing, I quickly and easily forget about what I’m doing right now, today, and I fail to consider that which has shaped me throughout a season (or even a lifetime.)
I’m often so focused on new beginnings and doing the next thing well, that I entirely forget about the value of endings. When we start something new, we are generally ending something else. Spring begins because winter ends. Summer vacation starts because the school year is over. Most times, when we start a new job, it is because a different job came to a close. When the sun delivers morning, the long night of darkness has ended.
Endings are very often things to celebrate. I’m keenly aware of this in my family right now as we look forward to the end of a school year in which my daughter completes 8th grade and my son completes 5th grade. It is true that we are beyond eager for the respite of summer break and summer fun, and it is true that each of them will move up to a bigger, more intricate educational system when the next school year begins. But, right now, we are actually not very focused on what is to come. Rather, we have been attending numerous year-end concerts and award ceremonies, and both kids will enjoy celebratory parties at school.
You see, we are grateful for the end, and we celebrate both the goodness of the ending itself, and the greatness of all that has happened throughout the school year to bring them to this point.
I have a dear, dear friend and international student who graduated from Hope College a couple of weeks ago, another big ending. We rejoice with her over the culmination of her college career, and equally, over the wonder and goodness of our God who called her to Hope and trained her there for many good things in the future. It is at the end of things that we can more clearly see how God has been faithfully present and active, and we celebrate God because of it.
Now, there are also times when something comes to a close, and it is the result of great hardship, extreme pain, outstanding sorrow. I have left jobs that way. I have been left behind in relationships like that. And, sometimes, I have simply dragged myself out of a long, hard season by the nape of my neck, weary and broken and worn. And then, the “celebratory party” felt false, I was just numb, and the people around me rejoiced for me — if not with me. They were grateful for whatever hard thing that was over, and the next thing that would begin.
There is joy in our days, and we will find it.
We can see it this time of year. Spring doesn’t just prompt summer; it is a celebration in and of itself. Holland’s Tulip Time comes to mind. Nearby Borculo has a Dandelion Festival. When I lived out by Rochester, New York, it was Lilacs. During these spring festivals, we celebrate the bright goodness of color and new life in the short blip between bitter winter, and vibrant summer.
And celebrate is what we should do. Savor today, and the gladness it allows. We can find joy in the leaving, joy in the new day, joy in the thing to come. Thankfully, they are all ours to receive.