Ending Are Important
Endings Are Important
By Rev. Gary Lewis
Have you ever been on vacation, and you didn’t want it to end? That’s the way I felt after three weeks away. Of course, it is good to be home, but it was a great time with the grandkids, and I miss waking up in the morning and seeing them.
Perhaps you’ve said the same thing about a favorite book. Or a movie. Or a meal. Or a sporting event. When we experience truly great things, we hate for them to end. But guess what? Research is revealing that we need for things to end. When faced with an ending, we become stronger, more focused, more productive and more positive.
According to The Atlantic magazine (November 2019), a study was done of more than 3,000 professional soccer games. It revealed that 23 percent of goals came in the final 15 minutes of the 90-minute match. The end of the game has a focusing effect, motivating players to summon their strength for a final push.
In a similar manner, deadlines inspire deal-making. An analysis of bargaining experiences found that 41 percent of deals are struck in the final 30 seconds. Endings are important. Real life is not like an Olympic water polo match. There is no such thing as a draw.
And what about the end of life? Blog posts of terminally ill patients use language that is much more positive than the language used by people who are farther from death. The same is true for the last word of death-row inmates.
Another study looked at hospice workers and other end-of-life professionals. For these people, exposure to death causes them to “live in the present, cultivate a spiritual life and reflect deeply on the continuity of life.” In a similar manner, people who have near-death experiences report an increased sense of spiritual well-being.
So, as we come to the end of life, we might think that we will hate for it to end. But the reality is that we need for it to end.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul offers a surprising perspective on the end of his earthly life. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (1:21) He knows that his ongoing life on earth means fruitful labor for the Philippians and for him, but at the same time he admits that his desire is to depart and be with Christ (1:22-24). Paul is writing from prison in Rome as he awaits trial for the work he has done as a Christian missionary, so it is clear that Paul is feeling that the end is near. Part of him wants his life on earth to end, so that he can be with Christ and share his resurrection life.
Like a prisoner on death row, he uses remarkably positive language to describe his situation. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (1:12-13) Because Paul is in prison, the good news of Jesus has actually spread throughout the Roman establishment. In addition, he says, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” (1:14). His courage and confidence are actually inspiring others to speak with courage and confidence.
Throughout his life, Jesus was willing to suffer as he showed love and grace to people around him. He held nothing back but emptied himself completely. In the same way, we are challenged to give of ourselves to show the love of Jesus to others. This is a challenge for anyone who wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. Fortunately, such sacrificial service not only benefits our neighbors, but it also benefits us, as it brings us into the presence of the one who suffered and died for all.
The Apostle Paul was not afraid of death. While happy to serve the church in this life, he was equally willing to depart and be with Christ. When we accept that life must end, we join Paul in becoming stronger and more focused, as well as closer to Jesus Christ.