Faces on Faith: Sunrise … sunset
With the parish a bit quieter and meetings at a minimum, I’ve tried to take advantage of my beautiful surroundings – especially the beach. Realizing I hadn’t even walked the beach in six months, I took the time last week to feel the sand on my feet, to walk in and out of the water, to watch the sun rise. Another day I took time to just sit and watch and listen to the lapping waves – such a soothing and peaceful sound. One day I even had the opportunity to see a sunrise and a sunset – a first for me to view in the same day. The beauty of each of those natural phenomenons tugged at my heart and soul that day as I thought of this fragile planet rotating upon itself even as it travels around that great star we call the sun. And watching the sun rise and set that day offered me the reminder of the full circle of life. We may think of our days as having beginnings and endings, but in reality it’s just a mystical and spiritual flow of one “ending” really becoming another “beginning.” Even as we in the United States say goodnight and fall asleep and end our day, someone in Bali is just greeting the sun and beginning a new day. Simple but tangible image.
As I write this column for the paper this week, I also realize that it will be my last one – as I will be retiring from St. Michael and All Angels on Sept. 1 – just a month away now. I’m looking at the “ending” of 10 years in a warm, welcoming and flourishing parish. How blessed I’ve been to be their pastor – they have helped me to flourish as well. And if I think of the cycle of life and the universe – that there aren’t any real endings, only new beginnings – I feel less sadness and more excitement about what new beginning my journey will take! Of course, this time of transition is bittersweet – how could it not be. But as Rainier Rilke wrote, “Life is all about beginnings so look at each open door as an unanswered question. Always be a beginner.”
Someone last week asked me how she could “begin again” with someone she had hurt deeply. Her friendship with another colleague had come to a sad ending because of her attempts to be brutally honest with her friend. As she reflected on the incident, she also realized that had she reread the harsh email before pressing “send,” things may have been different. We talked a lot about how to begin again, that the end of the friendship was hurting both of them equally, and that their relationship was too deep and rich to terminate. She decided to send her friend a small packet of seeds with a letter explaining that the image of the seeds and new growth might help as a first step in offering a new beginning. She also wrote in the letter that her beginning came first as a new learning about how – and how not – to be candid with a friend. It opened a new door for her about care and love in any relationship.
As you continue to enjoy summer on and off the islands, continue to look for those open doors and the possibilities of new life, new paths, new forks in the road, and new beginnings. If you fail to see any open doors, you may have to open the door yourself. That will take more courage and strength – especially if it involves a relationship. But the glorious and hope-filled possibility of new beginnings far outweighs any ending.
The Rev. Dr. Ellen M. Sloan is the rector at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.