My baby girl graduated from Pre-K yesterday. I found myself weepy and couldn’t quite figure out why. I mean, I love our preschool, Zoe’s teachers, her classmate friends and their parents, and the members of the school’s advisory board on which I serve. I get that the finality of it all feels somewhat icky. But is all that enough to bring me to tears?
Instead of judging and chiding myself for crying (especially considering that my daughter was not) and trying to figure out why I was doing so, I applied my recent life lessons and sat in the space. I let myself feel. My soul seemed to be grateful, for she allowed to surface a profound thought on the theme of the day: endings and the trajectory of life.
“All good things must come to an end” quips a pithy adage. What is it about endings that makes me cry? Loss, I suppose…loss of friendships, loss of a familiar place and routine, loss of who my daughter once was (a young pre-schooler who greatly leaned on Mommy) to be specific to this moment. The terminality is a downer, too. We are, of course, welcome to come back and visit (we have been invited, as a matter of fact); but nothing will be the same. This experience is now over; thus I wept.
Zoe is ready and excited to start kindergarten next year my inner voice said to me. (She sounded as confused as Zoe’s facial expression looked when she saw me crying.) She has been well prepared and her future is bright. Why your sadness?
I’ve been terrible with endings and good byes all of my life because I fear abhorrently abandonment. (It’s my old stuff that I wish that I could shake off. Alas, it will never go away [see the reason why in my post entitled “Creative Emptiness”]. I just get better at coping. I digress.) So, instead of risking being abandoned or causing pain to another person by potentially abandoning her or him with my good-bye, I’ve been wont to hang on.
My thought was that I would best honor my friends and relationships by continuing and/or revisiting relationships and places well past their natural end. As a result, I would anchor myself to a place in time, willing with all that I had for things not to change. Better stagnation than loss and pain, right? Guess what? Despite my strong will, life invariably went on and things inevitably did change. Consistently I’d find myself stuck in a place that no longer existed; and consequently I’d lack important skills to live in the now.
What an awful evangelist I would have been on the first Easter Sunday. If it would have been me weeping in front of the empty tomb, rather than Mary Magdalene, I probably wouldn’t have recognized the risen Lord. I would have been sitting there weeping with Jesus standing right in front of me, utterly unable to get over the horrid sights of Good Friday. “Hellllloooo?!?!” He probably would have had to say to me, all up in my face. “I’m RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF YOU!!! Why do you grieve and hang onto death amongst the living?”
Good thing that the Holy Spirit is infinitely more wise than my abandomnent-avoiding strategy and much more powerful than my stubborn trying-to-freeze-time will. (Amen?)
All of life, the Spirit has taught me, moves forward. Forward motion is the divine trajectory towards the already-accomplished end of all that is — that which results in the new heaven and the new earth. To weep too long and stagnate; to hang on and not progress; and to return compulsively to people and places from whom/which God has sent us forth is to set ourselves as a stumbling block amidst God’s ultimately perfect purpose. What human being’s plans are better than God’s?
Yes, there is sadness when things end. There is also Jesus standing before us as we weep, literally embodying the brightness and glory of what is to come.
Feel your pain. Cherish moments past. And then move on.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in [Jesus]. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because [he has] overcome the world (John 16:33, NLT).