Yesterday without much fanfare and just a bit of sulking, we experienced our very last first. It was the very last first day of school for the family. Aaron, our youngest, is now a senior and so the rituals of closing a summer with the first day of school are now over. I baked cinnamon rolls, even though he did not want one, and we snapped pictures, even though he is “too old” for such nonsense. Traditions and rituals are hard to break; we have been doing this, after all, for a total of fifteen years.
Once you become a parent the seasons marked by school take on a heightened significance. I remember holding his hand walking with him to his kindergarten class and worried and thinking to myself, “This school is too big for my small son.” What I did not know is that he seems too big for any school to contain his dreams and ambitions. The school bus no longer stops for him because he drives to school. It has been years since he brought home a drawing to post on the refrigerator. I am no longer invited to eat lunch with him 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. Growing involves shedding or losing things along the way. We were never created to be static.
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 church matters, because we need each other in the local church and 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.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
When I came home last night it was good to hear my son talk about his very last first saying he thinks he is going to enjoy his classes and his teachers. He believes it will be a good year. I know for me it has been a good life with all of these last firsts we have shared.
Blessed to be in these changing times with you all,