Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Diana Trautwein considers Finishing Strong and reflects on many endings in her life that contained surprising beginnings. Burrowing its way to the light of this particular transition of The High Calling, she is certain we will find a beautiful new beginning.

In our end is our beginning. (T. S. Eliot)

As followers of the Resurrected One, this is what we say we believe, isn’t it? “In the end is our beginning.” The empty tomb at the center of our faith assures us that even death is not the end. What looks to us like an ending marks the brilliant beginning of something new, something life-changing.

That is not to say that endings are easy. I don’t like them. I hate saying good-bye to people I care about, organizations I admire, ideas that hold promise. And for those of us who remain on this side of heaven, death always brings the wrenching pain of grief and a profound realization of loss.

Endings Hold Beginnings

Yet when I look back over my own life and ponder the multiple places along the way where something has ended, I can always find a beginning working its way through to the surface. Our two-year sojourn in Zambia ended with tearful farewells to loved friends and students, but the new baby we brought home with us signaled the beginning of a very different stage of life. The years I chose to stay at home raising children ended when the youngest left high school for college, but a new identity as a seminary student sprouted at about the same time.

Eight years later, a move away from our hometown of nearly thirty years brought tears, loss, and loneliness. Yet my new job as associate pastor opened doors in me I didn’t even know existed. My retirement fourteen years after that was bittersweet in many ways; soon, an online writing community and connections with clients for spiritual direction marked the beginning of a new kind of ministry life.

Now my husband and I find ourselves at another ending/beginning. We’re moving, downsizing, trying to prepare for this last stage of our lives, however long it may last. We’re sifting through nearly fifty years of memories and all the stuff that too often marks those memories for us. It was more than a bit wrenching to say good-bye to piles of photo albums and then cast their dismembered pieces into the recycle bin. I had a similar feeling as I tossed out files full of sermon notes. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of work over my life, and those overflowing bins remind me of that truth.

Work Continues Despite Endings

Now we’re in a different phase of working: me with writing and spiritual direction, my husband as a volunteer with young students. Life situations change, but work remains. Even my mother, ninety-four and slowly submerging under the waves of dementia, has good work to do. She brings light and love, smiles and kindness to everyone who lives or works in her assisted living unit. Even in that painful ending, there is something new blooming.

So, as we pack up the last few bins, we realize that in this ending, there is another beginning. We’re ending a long season of hosting large gatherings, working hard outside of our home, caring for over an acre of property. Now, a smaller, quieter life awaits us, one we look forward to discovering.

Some of those discoveries are likely to be difficult—getting old is definitely not for sissies! But there is a rich texture to these years, there is hard-earned wisdom to share and to continue to gather, there is laughter and love, and always, there is something new to learn. As I ponder what it means to finish strong, all the words from that hymn inspired by the T. S. Eliot line seem downright prophetic:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
("Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth, 1985)

I am trusting that the truth of these words will be a part of whatever comes next for all the good people at The High Calling too; that we will continue to find community—and good work to do—as the new version is unveiled. I am confident that burrowing its way to the light of this particular ending, there is a beautiful new beginning. I can’t wait to see what it looks like.