“For when we have come to the end of a thing we have come to the beginning of it.” G. K. Chesterton
Feathery snow traces dark, bare branches—edges clearly seen, crisp in winter’s garb. Juxtaposed with these stark lines, a low fog tucks my little town into hushed, hazy seclusion. The world wears the physical contrast of things clearly defined and things hidden in the blurred perimeter.
New years themselves are the edges of one season blending into another, of one year gracefully giving way to the next in the steps of a great dance. The past year or two has taught me that sometimes the sadness in our lives slowly fades into joy, or that the pain is replaced with Beauty, without us comprehending the moment of transition. At times, new life is breathed into dead hearts and relationships. As G. K. Chesterton explains:
“…boundaries are the most beautiful things in the world. To love anything is to love its boundaries; thus children will always play on the edge of anything. They build castles on the edge of the sea, and can only be restrained by public proclamation and private violence from walking on the edge of the grass. For when we have come to the end of a thing we have come to the beginning of it.”1
Fringes and edges are where change is occurring. New beginnings are at the boundaries of old endings. A new year does not erase the previous one, but builds upon it, beyond it. Sometimes the story goes on with similar themes and veins. Other times whole new plot twists are added; sweetness flows where the sore and sour reigned—and Beauty blossoms in the howling wilderness.
Sometimes I become enamoured with the start of a new year, thinking it must be better, or that my great expectations will be fulfilled in the coming days. I anticipate that vibrant Beauty will replace grey ashes. My view from the edge, straining to see ahead into the unknowable future, is much like straining to see into the fog. Instead, I will look back on what has clearly gone on behind me and learn from that—seeking not to make the same mistakes—that I might thrive in this year.
Often I live on the fringes—of church sanctuaries, of social gatherings, of my own thoughts. Yet I need to step in, to step up to the altar and taste the wine and wafer. To pull others in from the edges toward deeper relationships. To stop wading in shallow thoughts and dive deep into study, into ideas, into knowing what it is to know, to be. There are times when new places or experiences make us feel the edges of ourselves, they cause us to see ourselves as small.
We cannot, however, remain at the edge of a year, of a story, of ourselves and know the heart, the depth, the themes there-in. Each day is a step closer to the heart of the year. Each question we learn to ask—and answer we seek—leads us to a deeper experiential understanding of God, of life, of ourselves. We look back in order to know how to move forward. We look at the close of one story in order to appreciate the beginning of another.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.2
Here we are, between last year and next year in this year—awaiting its voice, words, and song. We hardly reach the end of one year before the next one opens, unknown. We must muse over the things that have gone before, as they are our guides—in many ways—of what not to repeat and what to pursue.
So, here’s hail! to the rest of the road. Let us walk in humble boldness from end to beginning, and on toward the boundaries that beckon us to enter in.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.3
- Chesterton, G. K., “The Lion” in Tremendous Trifles (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920) 222
- Eliot, T. S., “Little Gidding” in Collected Poems 1909-1962 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971) 204
- Ibid, 208