Beginnings and Endings, Blending
By Sarah B. Drummond
Romantic comedies often end with a wedding. Sometimes the weddings include disruptions that, were we to experience them in real life, wouldn’t be funny at all. But the “end with the (hilarious) wedding” conceit is perhaps the most common of conclusions for movies that wish to end happy.
Of course, anyone who is or has ever been married knows that weddings are hardly the end of the story. They are followed by a life shared with another person, which is a whole new story that is sometimes happy and sometimes not-so-much. I remember just before my husband Dan and I got married, an elderly aunt — who was half her husband’s age when she got married, and thus she was widowed young — telling me that if I thought I loved Dan, just wait: over the years I would come to really know him, and I would love him all the more.
Endings and beginnings that are clear and clean are more likely to appear in fiction than in real life. In my daily work, the tension between ending a program in one place (Newton) and starting something in a new place (YDS) is not easily dispelled. I’m just one “me,” in two places with two mandates. And yet as much as my daily tasks are different from one another in the two places, they further the same mission.
My aunt was right. I love Dan more now than ever, and when I look back at the man I married, I realize I hardly knew him then compared with now. I know that some Andover Newton constituents have chosen to frame our closing of our Newton programs as a full-stop ending. Perhaps that feels cleaner and thus easier to grieve, but the definition is simply not true. I am guessing that those who moved our mission’s location of operation from Cambridge to Andover to Cambridge to Newton could each relate to the impulse to make the messy clean. But those who seek to make the complex simple find themselves disappointed.
Advent helps us understand that tension. We prepare to welcome Jesus into the world and into our hearts. His coming was promised to our people, generation after generation. We place all our hopes on him when he was just a tiny baby. His birth doesn’t resemble an opulent wedding feast interrupted by a surprise. The wedding he rescued came a good 30 years later. His birth was the ending of a story of promise, and the beginning of a story that turned the world upside-down.
In my work as Andover Newton’s Dean, I am part of a team that is simultaneously ending one program and beginning another. At the same time, some of our beloved students in Newton are beginning their careers and new ministries, and some of our precious YDS students will graduate before we launch our bona fide educational program. Clear lines demarcating endings and beginnings are the stuff of movies. In life, as in the story of our faith tradition, the lines blur and dissolve into a continuity understood only by God.