The end of 2015 is here. While this time of year can bring great joy, it can also bring great anxiety. For, while the New Year brings new possibilities, it also forces us into the reality that some things will come to an end.
Somehow, perhaps in our childhood, we are taught to despise endings. With every ending comes a hint of sorrow, knowing that what we have grown to accept is about to change. This is true even when the ending is necessary, like the ending of a year. We have been trained to avoid endings at all costs, so much so that we don’t even know how to do them well.
When we don’t know how to end well, we can get stuck in vicious cycles of regret, disappointment, and despair. We regret all that could have been, become disappointed in ourselves for what wasn’t, and begin to despair what is to come.
So, what does a successful ending look like? Here are a few tips that can help you end well:
▪ You can end well when you accept the unavoidable. In short, there’s no use trying to fight against something that you cannot avoid. Whether in the ending of a termed relationship or even death itself, healthy people understand that some endings just have to be.
▪ You can end well when you embrace what was. There is nothing wrong with savoring the joys of the past and remembering the good things that took place in that which must end. Cherish the memories, embrace the positives and go back to them as often as you can.
▪ You can end well when you learn to let it go. Queen Elsa in Frozen knew what she was talking about. Letting go specifically refers to releasing the hold that it has on you and that you had on it. It is the process of opening your hand and heart in total surrender.
▪ You can end well when you anticipate what is to come. When you think about it, every ending is also the beginning of something new. Rather than dwelling on what was, you can focus on what will be. When endings create open spaces, we can anticipate the filling of those spaces with something refreshingly new.
Life is filled with endings and beginnings. Every new day, every new job, and every new relationship requires that we learn how to end well. Jesus understood the importance of this discipline. When it was time for his earthly ministry to end, he told the disciples a parable about the process of sprouting a grain of wheat.
I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message Bible.
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.” John 12:24-25
Jesus used the parable about a grain of wheat to describe the process that he would endure. He would die and be buried, but just like a seed, his death and resurrection would produce a harvest that would live in each of us. His life had to end so that resurrection and new life could begin.
Before you despair over what must end, think about what God wants to produce from your ending. Don’t get caught holding onto a seed when you could be enjoying its harvest. Reflect, release, and receive the great things that the Lord has in store for this New Year.
The Rev. Nicole Martin is executive minister at The Park Church.