What do you do at the end? When you read the last book of the Great American Novel, how to do you respond? When you hit the click the “submit” button at the end of a long application, how do you celebrate? When you finally arrive at home after a long roadtrip, what do you do? When your time at a place is drawing to a close, when the words “the end” to a 10-week journey are in the not-so-distant future, what do you do?
For the past 8 1/2 weeks, I’ve been interning at a youth ministry in Memphis. With only a week and a half left of my internship, I’m forced to reckon with “the end” of dozens of relationships – for better or for worse. The truth is, I was terrified to come to Memphis – a city I had never been to with people I had never met – but now, I am even more overwhelmed with the thought of leaving behind Memphis and all of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know along the way.
When you go into ministry, you will read all sorts of books about how to form relationships and “do ministry.” What you won’t be prepared for, however, is the ending of all that. As a staff, we’ve been reading through Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp. It’s an excellent book that has helped me tremendously through ministry, but what it hasn’t help with is how to “end ministry.” Seriously, how do you bring relationships with students to a close after you’ve gotten to know them so well? How do you say goodbye (or even just “see you soon”) to your fellow coworkers who have meant the world to you?
Perhaps we don’t actually have to end relationships at the end of ministry. Perhaps there is an alternative. Perhaps relationships don’t have to end. Perhaps they only go on hiatus, even if it is for an extended time. Because the truth is that while our relationships may end, in some sense of the word, on this side of Heaven, we will be reunited with those people and our relationships restored on the other side, in Eternity.
Relationships may exist only for a season and may end, but that is only for a season. One day, everything Good – relationships included – will be restored in the Kingdom.
And so while this feels like the end, perhaps it is only just the beginning.