There are two songs I love with the title, "Closing Time." The first is the 90s classic by Semisonic. If you grew up in the late 80s & 90s, you know this song and (hopefully) love it. If you don't love it, then I'm not sure we can be friends. (Just kidding. Maybe…). It's one of those songs that perfectly captures bittersweet moments of ending and transition. It's the ideal high school graduation song - or college graduation since it says something about whiskey and beer. The signature quotable line is, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Sigh. Genius.
The other song with this title is one by Texas artist Sean McConnell. When Jeff & I lived in Fort Worth, we became big fans (bordering on groupie) of Sean McConnell because we loved his music, and mainly because one of Jeff's childhood buddies was Sean's touring drummer. I became obsessed with his album, "Saints, Thieves, and Liars" near the time we moved from Fort Worth. The raw ballads captured so poetically the tearing pieces of my heart as I prepared to leave a place & people I had come to love while also anticipating with excitement the new beginning ahead. The song on this album, "Closing Time", actually came after my very favorite song on the album. It's a song about a romantic relationship ending, and so at first I didn't pay much attention to it. But the melody grew on me and soon I found myself belting it out in the car as a farewell prayer for the life I was leaving.
As May turns to June there are a lot of endings approaching. The end of Spring. The end of school. Graduation season. Transitions from one place to another. For us church nerds it is the end of the Easter season. I think many of us could safely say that the month of May is typically a time of closing, ending, and goodbyes.
I don't have any significant closings in my life this year. But many people I know are saying goodbye to high school, or college, or seminary. Many parents I know are hanging on to the slipping thread of final moments in their senior's last year of high school. Some people I know are preparing to pack up their lives in boxes, say their goodbyes, and move to a new city or state.
Today I wrote in the final page of the journal I have had since December 2012. This particular journal was the thickest one I have ever owned. And although I have been writing more regularly in these last few years than I ever have, this is the longest amount of time I have spent in one journal. There was also a long stretch of time after Abbey was born where I was either too lost in exhaustion or despair to pick up my pen.
It's a weird feeling to write a final entry in a book that has literally been by your side for 2 and a half years. In one sense it's an ending, but only for me. It's not like a graduation where you have a whole group of people to commemorate the experience while leaning on one another's shoulders. In the grand scheme of things, an end to a particular journal is not a big deal - like, at all. It's not as though I'll stop writing and it doesn't make any difference to anyone else. But it does to me. This journal has carried me through a lot. A lot of new beginnings and a lot of closing times. It's been there in my continued struggles of call and ministry. It has been the home for my prayers and most recently, my creative writing exercises. In the early pages I expressed despair and sorrow for the shooting of children in Newtown, CT in December 2012. I recorded prayers of hope for Jeff's home congregation when their church building burned down in March of 2013. My journal holds words of exasperation for the state of our world when racial, sexual, and economic injustices paint the streets of our country and send its people into opposing camps of distrust and hatefulness.
This journal has in its pages the celebration of the birth of my niece Ella in October 2013. It holds the story of the day my daughter Abbey came into this world on February 19, 2014. In its pages I have written about the deaths of my grandparents - Nana and Granddaddy - and how their lives have richly touched mine.
Transitions. Losses. Gains. Celebrations. Frustrations. Fears. Questions. Prayers. Affirmations. Searches for truth, and joy, and meaning.
In this season of endings and beginnings, I hope that I will continue to find God through the act of putting pen to paper and sharing freely the yearnings of my heart, the depths of my questions, and the every day graces of ordinary life.
And I hope that, whatever closing time you are going through, you will find a way to be still before it, bless it, and honor it in a way that only you can. No matter what our endings may be - whether it's a book, a journal, or a season in life - they are important. They have meaning and lessons for us. We just have to pay attention to them. And then... we have to let them go. Because, just like the song says: "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."