The Hope Found in a Comma

2:04 PMHeather

I thought my heart was going to come out of my chest. A feeling of panic came over me so strongly that I thought I might jump up and flee.  It was palpable. I literally put my hands over my chest and had to remind myself to take deep breaths to calm down. I dabbed my eyes, fighting back a gush of tears. 

The cause of such angst?  

Nothing as dramatic as you might think.  I wasn't stuck in a dark alley being pursued by some dangerous criminal.

Nope.  I was sitting in a church pew during a graduation ceremony.  Watching the inevitable.  And feeling overwhelmed.  It was too much.  There she was.  My "first baby girl"-- my niece.  Graduating from high school.  There had been the cruel and unusual punishment of a slide show of photos for each graduate from the small Christian high school.  Photos showing chubby toothless grins through funny toddler antics to beautiful senior photos of grown up young adults.  

Excuse me?  My heart literally felt as though it couldn't take it.  Sure, I lean to the dramatic...but there were so many factors to my feeling of sadness and panic and a sense of loss that an ending was upon me.  

She's the first of six grandkids.  My first "baby"--the niece I doted on.  The one who ushered in the thrills of being an aunt before I was distracted by my own children.  The one whose birth spurred her proud auntie and uncle to purchase a video camera.  So that we could film endless hours.  Of her just lying there.  As babies do. The first of my precious sister's children, whom I love as my own.

Here we go.  The beginning of the domino. First her graduation.  Then her brother, two years from now.

Then it will be my first born.

And BOOM!  Before you know it, it's all over.  My kids are grown and out of the nest and I will have to readjust this life of mothering I've lived for so many years.  An ending of an era.  

The heart wrenching road of mothering.  Being a mom feels so hard sometimes that I want to run away and think I'll gladly look to the empty nest.  The next moment, I want to wind back the clock and have some do-overs. Snuggle my babies more often and longer.  Laugh more often.  Play with my toddlers more.  Give them more of my attention.  Pour out more grace on their childish ways.  If I only I could go back.

This graduation was symbolic.  Watching that gorgeous curly haired beauty receive her high school diploma.  It feels as though it's ushering in an ending that I'm not sure any mother is fully prepared to face.  

Endings.  Transitions.  Change. 

The period at the end of the sentence.  

I wonder if the disciples felt this angst, this sadness and grief when Jesus ascended into heaven?  First they endured his death.  Surely, it must have slayed them.  As Scripture so clearly points out, they were a bit confused and clueless--having missed his repeated predictions of what was to come.  They were overwhelmed at the cruel death and the gaping hole in their hearts.  Then, the roller coaster of his resurrection, reviving their hope and their faith.  The fulfillment of promises.  The embodiment of grace that changes eternity.  

And then, he's gone again.  

I just can't imagine their emotions.  As I dove into my first day of the study of Acts, I drank in the words of Luke.  Thinking that those first followers must have felt a bit like I did at that graduation ceremony.  Panicked about the future?  Sorrowed over the ending?

But there it was.  And it leaped off the page.  

I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven....
Acts 1:1

The word that jumped out to me? 


All that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach.

To me, that one little word makes all the difference in the world for any of us facing a transition that FEELS like nothing but a big fat ending with a bold period at the end of the sentence.

The perspective that Jesus' earthly ministry was just the beginning.  That even his death, resurrection and ascension were only the start. That although Jesus had left them physically and was no longer among them, the works of Jesus were merely getting started.  The truth of it--surely more than Luke could have imagined as he wrote that little verse--is that miracles and wonders and signs and movements of God were just beginning. The interaction between God and man was about to be blown out of the water with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And the ending of Jesus' time on earth was not the period at the end of the sentence.

Not at all.  Instead, it was the hope found in the comma rather than the agony of a period.

Because it was not this:
Jesus had left.

It was this:
Jesus had left them in order to bring them into a new power and to a new life of grace and to unimaginable new things, equipped by the Holy Spirit.  

It is the flip in perspective that brings a hope to ease the grief.  To see the hope of a comma during our mourning over what feels like a period.  The leap of a paradigm shift that sees endings as transitions rather than just the end.  Because here is the gospel truth. What we see as an ending, God says is just the beginning.  He is about the continual work, the never ending work, the eternal work.  The big picture when we see only pieces of a puzzle. We are finite.  But, HE is infinite.

Have you ever read a great book or seen a movie and you just hated the ending?  You felt an emotional response to the ending because it just can't end THAT way.  

And, then, you turn the page or the movie screen shifts and you see this:
To Be Continued....

Doesn't that make it all feel okay?  To know that this is not the end?  There is more to come?

Here are the questions I asked myself as I read through this section of Scripture.  Do I see beginnings or endings?  Do I trust Him as continually being at work?  Can I just let Him keep writing His story and have trust in His authorship of my faith?  When a chapter ends, can I rest in the knowledge that God has so many more chapters to write?

Jesus told the disciples that it was better for Him to go.  Better for them to know this new paradigm of faith--living with the Holy Spirit inside of them rather than a Savior walking among them.  He assured them that it was better to have the power of God within us.  The Spirit of authority and fire.  The remedy for any timidity in us so that we can walk boldly for Him.

The hope in the glorious, beautiful punctuation mark in life when we realize that there is a comma rather than a period.  God is in the business of doing new things all the time.  Painting beauty from ashes.  Turning mourning into dancing.  Making all things work together for good to those who love Him.  Redeeming hardships into beautiful ministries and stories of grace and love.  

Calling us to trust Him where we see an ending.  Because from His perspective, He's just getting started.  He is just beginning a story that He longs to unfold for eternal purposes.

When I sat on that church pew Saturday morning, my mind's eye flashed through so many memories with my sweet niece.  As well times with my nephews and my own children.  And yes, it brought a lump to my throat when I stood up, eye to eye with these children.  But, I said a quick prayer for peace and assurance.

And I realized.  It's not ending at all. It's just getting started.  This glorious, wonderful adventure of life that God is writing, day by day.  

She's not just finished high school and leaving her home.  She's about to embark on the next chapter.  Memories to make.  Joys to experience.  Hard roads to endure. Revelations of the God she loves.

As I tucked my tissue into my purse, I felt God whisper.  "To be continued!  For my glory and good."

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