Fall tends to make me think about endings. As the leaves start to turn and the weather cools down, it’s a reminder to me that winter is coming. And in my fall melancholy, the change of seasons from fall to winter remind me that all things come to an end.
There are many different kinds of endings that we face in this life. Children go off to college and the time of being parents in the day-to-day ends. A job to another part of the country or world brings a season to a close. Parents decline, age and pass on. A season of health changes when illness strikes; the loss of a job brings an end to a season of prosperity; a friendship fades and ends, leaving only bittersweet memories.
While all these scenarios are realities over the course of a life, I was struck this morning by Psalm 71 which addresses some of the fears we face in the aging process. “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” (v 9) The author of the accompanying commentary noted the wisdom of the psalmist’s honest cry. To dwell on these fears, on the one hand is to admit one’s fright; alternately, to suppress thoughts of the possibility of loneliness and infirmity in aging is an even more unhealthy way of dealing with the fear.
The Psalmist, however, gives us a third way to deal with the endings we’ll face in this life – whether it be physical death or a change in circumstance. “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.” (v20) Notice first that there’s an acknowledgement of the pain, hardship and trauma he has faced AND the Lord’s sovereign Hand over what he has experienced, “You who have made me see….”
Notice, though, that there’s no bitterness in the Psalmist’s words. Instead, his difficulties birth hope – and it’s not some nebulous hope for a better day tomorrow. It’s resurrection hope! There’s the certainty that he will be revived, but even more, brought up from the “depths of the earth.” It might be easy to read that last phrase as a metaphor, but I have a feeling that the Spirit who inspired these words meant much more: a physical, bodily resurrection.
And that’s where I end on these late fall days when winter is just around the corner, when it looks like good things are ending and my infirmities are growing. It’s in these moments that I fight for the light and momentary perspective on a melancholy mood or an achy joint, or, more significantly, the loss of a friend. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:17-18)
In all these endings, there is the certain promise of a new beginning, in a place where endings shall be no more.
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