Some beginnings are brown. There is nothing fresh or new about them.
Take autumn, for instance. In my mind, it begins with the first gilded edge on the giant magnolia tree. In my mind, it begins with the weeping willow’s coppery sheen.
Apparently, my mind is wrong. Has been wrong for all these years. Because autumn is beginning, and it is brown.
It is brown where the seed pods rattle in the flowerbeds. It is brown where the first leaves have fallen and turned crispy. They were overeager. They could not wait for their orange or red transformation. The reward for their impatience is to be mistaken for dull oak leaves rather than the vivid maples they are.
Some have asked how the book writing is progressing. I tell them all the same thing. I tell them I have written a lot of words, and I despise every one of them.
The response to my honesty has been, universally, a wide-eyed look of concern. I appreciate the concern. It draws out the nurturer in me. I want to pat each friend on the hand, I want to pat myself on the hand, and say, “There, there. I think it will be okay. It is only that some beginnings are brown.”
Beginnings rarely make a clean break with endings. The two are usually muddled together.
It can all be a bit discouraging without eyes to see. I am praying for eyes to see.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Do not dwell on the past.
What relief there is in those words. How light is their burden.
Light enough that we are able to keep walking. Perhaps even with a spring in our step, which, as you know, is a sign of anticipation. We know we are closer.
Every day brings us closer to that place where the water runs fast and clear.
If you walked through my front door today, you would be greeted by three large green splotches. Two on the wall. One on the ceiling over your head. Actually, if you had walked through my front door two months ago, you would have seen the same green splotches.
We were testing paint colors. We even chose one. But in between the choosing and the painting, five-hundred little tasks, and maybe a dozen big tasks, elbowed their way in.
The thing about realizing a big dream is that you will always feel behind. Overwhelmed. In over your head. (Of course, feeling in over your head is generally a sure sign that you are right where you are supposed to be).
We feel a lot of pressure on Saturday mornings. If not much happens on a Monday, well, no big deal, that’s just Monday. But Saturdays are the days for getting stuff done. Last Saturday, my husband, having just cleaned up all the breakfast dishes, started murmuring about the floor. Would now be a good time to pull out the steam mop?
Loving wife that I am, I shrieked and said, “No! Now would be a good time to get out the paint can!”
Here is one of those ironies about marriage, another of those little things that sound good in theory but mostly annoy in practice: he sees the crumbs and dirt, I see the unpainted walls and the absence of a fence around the garden. On paper this is a match made in heaven. In our house, someone always has their eye on the details and someone else on the big picture.
Unfortunately, the one who is bothered by the lack of a fence is the same one who is not very capable with power tools. But, we’ve learned a few things in our sixteen years of marriage and didn’t waste too much time before I pulled out the mop and he pulled out the paint can.
When each Saturday (with its ever-growing list of to-dos) comes around, I often find myself repeating these words, “This is only the beginning.” These words remind me that I am exactly where I need to be. They remind me that something good is starting. They remind me that in God’s story, the best is always yet to come.
Though these words are specific to my life here in a new place, I find they are becoming much more than that.
I may be at the beginning of the work God has planned for me here at Maplehurst, but we are all of us at the beginning of things. This is as true for my baby daughter as it is for my older parents.
Our life on this planet is just the beginning. It is chapter one. Or better yet – only the prologue. It is where we begin to experience the work, play, rest, and worship we will enjoy forever.
I think “the beginning” matters much more and much less than we typically imagine.
It matters more because the world we are experiencing now is not moving toward destruction. It is moving toward renewal.
It matters less because the petty annoyances, the illnesses, the losses, and even the tragedies we suffer are passing away. The sin and evil and general brokenness that leave us breathless with fear and anger? They have already been defeated. They are on the way out.
I’m afraid too many of us believe the wild poetry of the book of Revelation has not yet happened. That we are still waiting for that victory. But here is the Good News: it is finished. Revelation is simply the Cross from the point of view of heaven.
We don’t throw up our hands and say it will all be sorted out when Jesus comes back.
He already came.
He already sorted it out.
And there is nothing to stop us from sowing those kingdom seeds.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.'”
Revelation 21: 5,6