Henry Cloud, in his book Necessary Endings, writes, “In both the personal and professional life, there are times when reality dictates that a person must stand up and ‘end’ something. Either its time has passed, its season is over, or worse, continuing it would be destructive in some way.”
Many people find it difficult to make the decision that brings things to an end. Yet endings are an essential part of life.
“Everything has seasons,” writes Cloud, “and we have to be able to recognize that something’s time has passed and be able to move on to the next season. And, everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. Gardeners prune a rose bush for three reasons: 1) The bush produces more buds than it can sustain, and some good ones have to go so the best ones can have all the resources of the bush; 2) there are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well; and 3) there are some that are already dead and are taking up space.”
Jesus understood this principle of life and leadership. In John 14:26–28, Jesus explains to the disciples that his ministry on earth must come to an end: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
Jesus needed to bring this stage of his ministry to a necessary ending in order for God’s plan for humanity to be fully realized. Jesus transitioned from being present in the flesh to a risen Messiah working through the Holy Spirit.
New year, new priorities
For many, the turning of the calendar is cause for reflection and recalibration of priorities. We write down our hopes, dreams, and goals for the coming year. Many of us have two lists: the “stop doing” list and the “start doing” list. We want to stop doing harmful or less productive things, and start doing the things that will be helpful or healthy.
But according to Henry Cloud, we may be better off looking at our lists a different way – not as stopping and starting, but as transition and growth from one era of life to another. Often, good things may need to come to an end so better things can begin.
For example, as my boys graduate from high school into young adult life, our relationship changes. I grieve the loss of what we had when they were young, but I also rejoice in the joy of relationship with them as adults. I want them to move from being boys to men, which means I must transition to treating them
As I age, I recognize that my role as a leader changes from leading to cheerleading, from leading the charge to mentoring those leading the charge. I need to let some of my leadership dreams die in order to move into the role that God has for me at this stage in my life and ministry.
But endings are hard. To let go of something dear to our hearts – something that’s meaningful or gives us a sense of significance – can be emotionally difficult.
Changes @ CCMBC
As a Canadian group of churches, we minister in a country that’s changing rapidly. Our neighbourhoods are becoming increasingly multicultural. Judeo-Christian values and practices are being pushed to the sidelines of society. Communication has changed dramatically over the past decade. The transient nature of our lives has changed the way we view work, family relationships, community, and church. While we may mourn some of our losses, we face many exciting opportunities.
Our churches will need to transition from a clan-connected, monoethnic community with a shared history, to one that creates relationships among multiethnic, unconnected groups in order to become a mission-oriented faith community. To accomplish this, we must extend trust to one another. We must develop a common faith in pursuit of a common Saviour as we write a new story together. Increasingly, we will not discuss our shared history but our shared future in Christ.
I’ve been thinking about the last sentence of this article for a long time. Here’s an attempt at a rewriting that may put a slightly different spin on where might go: “Increasingly, we will learn to listen to all of our stories, attending to both the shared and the unique, so as to imagine how we might embrace our common future in Christ.”