Starting, stopping, and feeling stuck

A lot happens during graduation season. For those graduating from high school, university, or grad school, it’s a time to celebrate the completion of educational goals. For younger children graduating preschool, kindergarten, or other elementary programs, the celebration is more of an encouragement toward further achievement. For parents and other family members, graduation celebrations may mean other things. It could mean the end of tuition payments – something to celebrate – or it could be just the beginning of loan repayments. Parents and grads could feel proud of the accomplishment but feel simultaneous concern because of the difficult job market in our current economy. We are raising, after all, what is being called the “boomerang generation.”

Mixed emotions surrounding life events such as graduation are common . . . and useful. I often wish I could be paid to reflect. I haven’t found that position ever listed anywhere: Professional Reflector. Graduation time is a perfect time for reflection, though, isn’t it? Reflection is useful because it helps us to sort out those mixed emotions. We can ask ourselves the important questions like “What would I choose to do if there were no obstacles to achieving it?” Or, other questions that address our fears: “What am I saying ‘no’ to and why? What do I say ‘yes’ to that I really want to say ‘no’ to?” These are good questions to ask whether we just graduated last week or if it happened 25 years ago.

The point of stopping and starting feels very similar to the way water currents appear when Oceans and Sounds meet in proximity to rocky barrier islands and formations. There is turmoil there. It isn’t a spot where you want to spend too much time – that space between stopping and starting. Unlike that spot in the water, sometimes our stopping points in life do not come with an option to return. Sometimes we must move into the new water and make a fresh start.

Fresh starts in life and new birth produce the same feeling, too: a sense of excitement and hope for the future. If we could figure out how to contain that energy as a resource, we’d never need oil again. It is rare, though, that we are able to enjoy that sense of renewal in isolation. So often, it coincides with some other end or loss – we feel sad for the end of one thing, yet excited for the beginning of another thing. It could be a pregnancy after a family member’s death, or a new relationship after the painful loss of another. It could be a new career after being laid off from a job you loved. Whatever it is, the importance of this moment is the appearance and effect of hope.

Hope is a powerful motivator and change agent. Hope moves us in ways that not much else can move us. According to the discussions of faith in the book of Hebrews, our faith doesn’t serve as an end in itself, but serves instead to produce hope.

To all who are at the point of stopping something, starting something, or feeling stuck, may God grant you the hope that is ours through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:13 (TNIV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.