With August ending, we face the end of another summer. What thoughts does that bring to mind? For some, it will bring thoughts of regret and missed opportunities. Another summer where we didn’t go to the lake, didn’t go camping, didn’t take the kids to the zoo. However, when our eyes are fixed on the missed opportunities of the past season, we can easily miss the blessings of the new season. There is a better way.
T.S. Elliot expresses it well in his poem Little Gidding saying, “For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” While we understand the importance of leaving the past in the past, our regrets of the past have a way of sneaking into the present. We will be wise to remember Elliot’s advice, that each end is an opportunity for a new beginning.
So, what new beginning does the end of summer bring for you? For some it means the start of a new school year. Seeing this as a new beginning offers the child, parent and teacher a choice. Rather than starting the school year kicking and screaming, we can run through the doors anticipating the new beginning. We can leave the summer in the past to begin something new. It all starts by realizing that “to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Understanding this will help us in our spiritual journeys as well. How? Paul, assuming our need for a new beginning, tells the Romans that if they desire life they must first die to self, “For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:7-8) When Nicodemus comes to Jesus, Jesus tells him “unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
The way to God is not through more education or righteous deeds, it is by putting an end to self in order to be made new. The old self must be put to death so that we can be made new in Christ. C.S. Lewis observed, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. . . It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”
We cannot be born again while still clinging to the past; it must be put to an end so that we can be made new. Just as clinging to the past makes transitioning between the seasons difficult, so too will it be in our spiritual lives. Spiritually, unless we “die with Christ”, we cannot be set free from the power of sin; as long as we are still in bondage to sin, we cannot find life.
Hebrews 2 speaks of the great promise that Christians put their hope in, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (14-15) Now the Christian, no longer in bondage to the enslaving power of sin, is able to live not only full of hope but also with expectation.
In the past, we believed that our hope was in ourselves. However, this offered us little hope for we are acutely aware of how short of the mark we come. Whatever the task is that we seek to do – study for an exam, love your spouse, living to please God – can anyone say they have done all that they can? Therefore, if we cannot count ourselves worthy by our own standards, our only hope is that God grades on a curve for we know that we have missed the mark.
However, if the Bible is true, that we are saved by our faith in Christ alone, and that by this we are made new, born again, then our hope is sure. Therefore, just as the end of summer brings us new opportunities for the fall, so too when we turn to Christ we find a perfect hope that allows us to leave the voices of the past behind to make a new beginning.