When my second son began preschool, an experience relished by his five brothers, his reaction was less than enthusiastic. As we approached the brightly painted door that led to his classroom, I felt myself being pulled backward by the pressure of his tiny hand tugging on mine.
Looking down I saw the big brown eyes welling up with tears, a look of fear crossing his flushed face. A kindly, gray-haired lady came out and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, ushering him in to join the other children. As he turned to look at me with wide doe-eyes, I was sure the lump in my throat would choke me. I waited for the inevitable with baited breath.
“MOMEEE!” came the blood-curdling scream. It wasn’t so much the word as the impassioned, gut-wrenching way in which it was delivered that pierced my guilty-mother heart as I tore myself away, leaving him there in the obviously adequate care of his new teacher.
New beginnings were not his cup of tea.
And so it is for many of us, even as adults. New beginnings, while often exciting and challenging, also signify endings. With each new beginning we are called to give up the security and comfortableness of old ways to move forward into the unknown. Even routine, boring or painful daily experiences may be difficult to relinquish because they have become an anchor holding us in place.
New beginnings require a trust in the Lord and acknowledgement that he is the author of both beginnings and endings. Moving forward is sure to be difficult without the hand of the Lord to lead us.
Talking to a young man who wished to follow Jesus, but only after he had returned home to say good-bye to his family, Jesus explained the importance of letting go of the past: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was not saying, as many believe, that the past is something that should be forgotten or ignored, but rather, that when the time comes for a decision to be made for the future, the past must take its place as the port from which one sails.
This is particularly relevant in a time of reconfiguration of parishes and schools—painful, but responsible decisions ensuring that future generations may effectively continue the mission to serve God and each other.
To continue to look back may prevent us from making what one Bible commentary refers to as an “instant decision of purpose” – the kind we must make when God calls us to something new and, often, something frightening.
My experience with decisions of “purpose” have taught me a lesson I continue to value today—when the challenges of any new beginning bring cries for help, we should remember the words of Jesus as he rebuked the storm, saying, “Quiet! Be still!” and his remonstration of the Apostles, of whom he asked, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
I have learned, also, that with prayer, and an attitude of “not my will but Yours,” the sometimes stormy sea of change will be navigated with surety through faith in God and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Speaking of new beginnings, I wonder how Noah would have done in pre-school?
“Then David said to his son, Solomon. ‘Be firm and steadfast. Go to work without fear or discouragement, for the Lord, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or abandon you before you have completed all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.’” 1 Chronicles 28:20