Here is my second reflection on Paul’s life and the transition of seasons he was undergoing in leaving the city of Ephesus (read Seasons – Part 1).
Seasons are Marked by Endings and Beginnings
Paul felt an urgency that compelled him to leave Ephesus and go to Jerusalem, though he was completely in the dark about what would happen there (Acts 20:22). In fact, he knew there were hard times and imprisonment ahead (Acts 20:23). What mattered most was to finish what God had started through him – letting everyone know about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God (Acts 20:24). While with the church at Ephesus, Paul gave it all he had (Acts 20:18-21). He was with them totally, doing is best, giving his all (Acts 20:26-27, 31). But now he knew his time in Ephesus was coming to an end.
I know the feeling. I served on staff of a large church for 32 years – 22 years as the Senior Minister. I gave it all I had. I did my very best. But in the end, I was tired … I was spent and ready for a change. I had said and done everything I could and needed to. As I reflected personally and discussed this with my family over a period of time, I sensed that an ending was at hand. It was time to move on.
Life’s seasons are marked by endings and new beginnings. In fact, life is a series of endings, in-betweens, and beginnings, all interconnected. Examples include family changes (getting married, becoming a parent, a marriage breakdown, sickness, aging or death), school changes (from primary to secondary to university), work changes (career changes, downsizing, mergers, acquisitions, promotions or a new boss), house changes (moving, immigration, relocation), church changes (relocation, changing demographics) and ministry changes (transitions, relational changes).
Henry Cloud is his helpful book book Necessary Endings says:
“Endings are a natural part of life – we either face them, stagnate or die. Without the ability to do endings well, we flounder, stay stuck and fail to reach our goals and dreams. Endings are crucial but we rarely like them. We naturally avoid them. That’s the problem. When endings are done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached and better lives. Endings bring hope. When done poorly, bad outcomes happen, good opportunities are lost, and misery either remains or is repeated … Endings are not failures or something to be avoided. Nothing lasts forever. Endings are normal. Life produces too much – more relationships, activities, clients, mentors, partners, strategies and stuff than we have time and room for. It it time for pruning? An ending does not mean you have failed. Avoid misunderstood loyalty and co-dependency. Insecurities and fears cause us to resist endings.”
The first half of life involves mostly beginnings. In the second half of life there are more endings and new beginnings. What endings have occurred for you that led to new beginnings? Make a list of them all. You’ll be surprised how many there are in life. What were these times like for you? What were the various feelings you had to navigate? How are you different now? What did you learn?