‘There is no ending without a beginning … beginnings and endings are always right up against each other.’
Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom
I’m reflecting on these words as I find myself in an end/beginning space. On Sunday, I said farewell to the congregations of the Uniting Churches I’ve been serving and I turn my face towards beginning with a new congregation in March. Both the ending of the one and the beginning of the other were unanticipated only four months ago and in addition, the ending was unlooked for and even unwelcome.
Endings are often this way, we fight against them, wrestle with them, become overwhelmed with the sorrow inherent in them, and try to evade or deny them. Sometimes, we simply do not want them. What remains at the end is a space. Rachel Remen encourages her readers to think of endings as end/beginnings.
She illustrates her point by telling the story of a ring she once made. Crafted in silver, the design was technically difficult. When it was finished, it attracted a lot of admiration and she was persuaded to take it to a jeweler who agreed to buy her design, to recast it and sell it to others.
She left it with him, but that night, a huge storm washed a part of the road she’d traveled the previous day into the ocean. The jeweler’s shop, which had stood next to the road on the seaside, was washed away, taking her ring with it. She was left with an empty space on her hand where the ring had been – silent, huge, and filled with loss. She writes of how she learned to value the space, to let it be sacred, and to wait in the space to see what gift would come. Thus, she came to view her experience as an end/beginning.
So, here I am, in the space between the end/beginning. Today marks the eve of the Christian season of Lent, a season of prayer and reflection, of self-examination and repentance. This year, I will spend most of it in this space in between the end/beginning. I’m hearing the call to let it be a sacred space and to anticipate its gift.