the End

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 7:8 that "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning..." Stop and read that again. Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. That statement has been stirring in me for the past few days. Why is a thing's end better than its beginning? What is contained in the beginning and in the end how is that eclipsed by something else? I started to think about the "beginnings" in my life. I began college with great expectation, great hope, great dreams. At its end, 9 years ago, the reality of it fulfillment was quite different than anything I had expected. I entered school pursuing a degree in History Education at Penn State and single. I left engaged to a wonderful woman who had become my best friend, with a degree in Religion and Biblical Studies, in Lynchburg, VA on a different course altogether. Soon after (7 weeks to be exact) I entered into marriage with great joy, great hope, great expectations. Nearly 9 years later, we find ourselves about a million miles from where we thought we'd be, doing something quite different than we ever imagined. A few years ago I entered Seminary with great hope, great expectations, great dreams. Last Friday, I completed my coursework and finished my degree. And today, the end, is truly better than the beginning, like it always is. But why?

At the outset of a "thing" the exhilaration of trying something new, the anxiety of the unknown, and the optimism of the unfamiliar all combine to create an environment drenched in hope. Starting something is a hopeful exercise, isn't it? No one begins something so that it blows up in their faces and leaves them worse off than they were before. We launch ourselves into something new, pregnant with excitement and expectations, with the hope that what we finish will be rewarding and satisfying and, most of all, worth the effort. And it almost always is, isn't it? At the end of thing, you have the blessing of retrospection. And looking back is sweet - you see the turns, course correction, the hand of God weaving through the storyline of what was. You see firsthand the benefits felt along this journey, you notice the critical points when it all could have unraveled, and you marvel in the Sovereign grace of Providence that kept you on course. And the end is truly better than the beginning.

But, as I continued to think about it, it became clear to me that you can't linger too long at that scenic overlook, because you only get to exist in a state of "finish" for a short time and something else awaits. To be sure, the end is fun and a sense of accomplishment in enjoyable, but o so quickly you are pulled into another thing's beginning. As I was reminded in the late 90's "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." So, in light of all that, what is my point here? Enjoy the end of a thing. It truly is a joyous thing. It is available to those select few who had the patience and endurance to stay the course. But don't get hung up there too long. There's more new beginnings into which we will launch ourselves. There are more "ends" to be attained, more hope, more dreams, more expectations to be pursued. I can only imagine the joy and satisfaction that await us at the end of our current "things." Friends, stay the course. Finish well. The end is better than the beginning. Solomon says so...