Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

January 11, 2005

On Beginning Again

It is the finest and sweetest grace in this life simply to begin again. The poet Theodore Roethke called himself, "Beginner, perpetual beginner." Does such a label conjure for you impressions of fruitlessness and frustration? That may be because you're thinking of earthly endeavors. To always be starting the project--let's say, building a house--but never finishing, that would seem sheer hell. The future, for such a one, is utterly bleak.

And yet the spiritual project set before us is not "complete-able" in our lives. We must live with this nagging sense of being always "in the middle of something." That's why the first and last pages of a good book are so satisfying. Or the opening images and again the final shot in a great movie. It's the illusion first of freshness, of starting from scratch, and then of completeness, of conclusion.

These are sensations life seldom affords us. We live in a world of continual partial-ness. Sometimes life seems like a building project in a war zone. No sooner do you construct one wall, working diligently amid the rubble, than the bombers destroy another. What makes it worse is that we are lousy builders, and sometimes the walls come down on their own. What makes it worse still is, sometimes we knock them down ourselves out of sheer spite.

What a mess. Always we're trying to build our little kingdom, our little circumference in which to rule, but here is Jesus saying, "Seek first my Kingdom, and I'll take care of the rest."

In heaven, I believe, we will experience these two seemingly contradictory impressions (of beginning and of finishing) at once. We will have a sense of the "completed-ness" (what the Bible calls "perfection") of all things (like the final scene in the greatest movie ever) including ourselves. A sense, in other words, that the race has been run, and the laurel wreath bestowed. And yet also we will have the sense of an adventure just beginning at every moment, like the opening paragraph of the greatest adventure novel ever penned.


Post a Comment

<< Home