I was reading a story recently written by a widow who was going to remarry. She was explaining the collision of joy and sorrow on her wedding day. She was getting ready to marry someone she loved deeply, but at the same time still suffering from the pain in her heart of losing her husband.
I can’t even begin to understand the depth of the emotions this woman was encountering, and I’m not trying to compare any situation I have ever experienced with what she was going through. However, her words helped me process the competing emotions I’ve been juggling this past year.
How can I be excited one minute and feel like I’m in mourning the next? How is that I’m genuinely looking forward to a challenge ahead, then curled up in the fetal position as I think about what I might lose?
We are getting ready to enter into a new chapter in several areas of our life. I’ve realized that most beginnings can only happen after an ending. And somewhere between the two you have to go through a transition that is like a minefield of unexpected feelings.
For the past year, our church has been discussing the idea of merging with another church. On Sunday night, our members voted to move forward. It’s super exciting to think about two churches working together toward a common vision. At the same time, it’s been hard to think about letting go of control, especially since this also impacts my job. I’m looking forward to new challenges, but to move forward, I have to do some things for the last time.
Similarly, I’m excited for my child to get to experience college, but I have go through all of the lasts of high school first. Changing the way I eat felt like an ending as I gave up so many foods I loved. But I had to do that in order to experience the beginning of a healthier life. Even entering a new decade of life feels like ending one chapter and starting the next in some ways.
This has made me realize that it’s kind of nice to sit in the middle. Man. We’ve been able to enjoy some middle years for a while now. We’ve actually figured out some of this parenting stuff. I’ve created some mom life routines that are working. I mastered skills at my job that make tasks that were once hard now seem simple.
Dang. I could just sit here in the middle forever!
The truth is, no one really experiences much growth during those easy middle parts of life. They are healthy and necessary. They are a great place to rest and recover. Create margin. Figure things out. Go deeper.
But those endings and beginnings? Those are the challenging times that grow and stretch us. We get pushed outside our comfort zone. We are forced to deal with hard stuff. We have to learn new things. Relationships get strained. We have to work harder to build new friendships or maintain the ones we have. We have to say good-byes. We have to establish new routines. During this past year, I’ve had to rely on God more than ever as I’ve realized I can’t do this on my own.
I’ve been feeling like I’m on a roller coaster the past few months, trying to simultaneously navigate the dread of endings and the excitement of beginnings. Sometimes I have felt like a fraud because I’ve been excited about something new, then minutes later a basket case about doing something for the last time. Is it really OK for me to be sad about an ending if I’m also looking forward to a beginning?
Reading the story of that widow helped me remember that this is just a normal part of life. It’s OK to grieve the past. It’s OK to lean into those endings and feel the pain. And at the same time, you can feel the joy of what’s ahead.
Where are you in your life right now? Are you enjoy some middle years? Dreading an ending? Getting exciting about something that is about to begin? Or maybe a combo of all of the above?