This past Monday was a “Last First” for us, well for our oldest son anyway. It was his last first day of school. Beginning with Kindergarten he has had for the last thirteen years a monumental first day of school and now that he is a senior he observed his last first day of school. I thought about this as both boys were eating cinnamon rolls that we bake, always on their first day of school. This will not be his last cinnamon roll of course, but it will be his “last first.”
Once you become a parent the seasons mark by school take on a heightened significance. I remember holding his nervous little hand walking with him to his kindergarten class and thinking to myself, “this school is too big for my small son.” Now both of my sons seem too big for any school to contain their dreams and ambitions. The school bus no longer stops for them because they drive to school. It has been years since either one of them brought home a drawing to post on the refrigerator. I am no longer invited to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. There have been many “last firsts” along the way; I just did not always know it or recognize it.
This is the way of life. Things come and move and have their being and then are no more. Life cannot be frozen or halted. Children grow up; parents get old; employment changes; friends move and the seasons unfold. In fact growing involves shedding things along the way. Did you know that every five years 100 percent of our atoms turn over and are replaced by new ones? That is basically saying every five years we have a whole new self with no original parts. It is the nature of life to keep on moving. One scientist framed it this way: “We are continually being recreated from dust and returning to dust…we are not things; instead we are processes” (More Than Meets the Eye, Richard A. Swenson, p.18).
How do you see God in your “last firsts”; those places in your life where you are saying goodbye? What do you think is awaiting you? How do you trust God in these places of transitions? These are big questions applied in the minute particulars of life. They are also part of the life of any community of faith. No one church can ever be exactly the way it was. That is the definition of death. Rather we are always in a process of becoming.
That is why we need each other in the local church, because together we are on a shared pilgrimage. Together we may confess faithfully: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) But together we can draw into the mystery: “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:13).
Indeed like seasons of the year and our own bodies we are growing and becoming. In all of our first lasts and endings that give birth to beginnings, may our confessions be that of the ancients: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:22-23)
Grace and peace, now and forevermore.