To Be a Beginning for Others
Thinking about our upcoming sermon series (New Beginnings) brought to mind one of my favorite poem-prayers by Ted Loder called “Help Me to Believe in Beginnings,” which goes like this:
God of history and of my heart,
so much has happened to me during these whirlwind days:
I've known death and birth;
I've been brave and scared;
I've hurt, I've helped;
I've been honest, I've lied;
I've destroyed, I've created;
I've been with people, I've been lonely;
I've been loyal, I've betrayed;
I've decided, I've waffled;
I've laughed and I've cried.
You know my frail heart and my frayed history -
and now another day begins.
O God, help me to believe in beginnings
and in my beginning again,
no matter how often I've failed before.
Help me to make beginnings:
to begin going out of my weary mind
into fresh dreams,
daring to make my own bold tracks
in the land of now;
to begin forgiving
that I may experience mercy;
to begin questioning the unquestionable
that I may know truth
to begin disciplining
that I may create beauty;
to begin sacrificing
that I may make peace;
to begin loving
that I may realize joy.
Help me to be a beginning to others,
to be a singer to the songless,
a storyteller to the aimless,
a befriender of the friendless;
to become a beginning of hope for the despairing,
of assurance for the doubting,
of reconciliation for the divided;
to become a beginning of freedom for the oppressed,
of comfort for the sorrowing,
of friendship for the forgotten;
to become a beginning of beauty for the forlorn,
of sweetness for the soured,
of gentleness for the angry,
of wholeness for the broken,
of peace for the frightened and violent of the earth.
Help me to believe in beginnings,
to make a beginning,
to be a beginning,
so that I may not just grow old,
but grow new
each day of this wild, amazing life
you call me to live
with the passion of Jesus Christ.”
— Ted Loder
Sometimes we believe in new beginnings, opening ourselves up to new ideas. Sometimes we make new beginnings, taking action in some way — big or small. Sometimes we become a new beginning, coming alongside someone else’s story in a significant, embodied way.
One morning a few years ago, I was reading this exact prayer, speaking it as my own heart’s desire (even if aspirational) as I prayed it to God. When I came to the section that said
“Help me to be a beginning to others, to be…a befriender of the friendless,” I immediately felt my heart jump, as if God’s Spirit was highlighting this phrase for me. It felt like an invitation, a moment when my openness to live out this prayer in a real way coincided with something Someone was calling me to do.
Without having to analyze what this might mean, I knew the person in my life who needed a friend. This person is hard to spend time with because he suffers from severe mental illness, which has led to a lot of hardship and loneliness in his life. He easily falls into the category of friendless. So I started taking steps forward in our friendship. This meant carving out time in my schedule to stop by, or settle in to unplanned conversations. It meant allocating some money in our budget to buy lunch when he was running short that week. It meant more than just answering his calls, but now having times when I would be the one to initiate a conversation or get-together. More than merely saying “yes” to this friendship, it also meant saying no to some other things so I had the needed margin to dedicate additional time to being with him.
Honestly, it wasn’t an easy change, but sometimes the best parts of life are hard-fought and won. Our friendship has taken many turns throughout these past four years, but it has blossomed into something more beautiful and rewarding than I could have initially imagined. I find that funny about life. We like to plan and pretend that we can anticipate and control where life takes us, but many of the best things fall into our lap and require us to lean in a great deal before we can fully (or ever) understand why. I have no doubt that God prompted me to intentionally deepen that friendship, and I’m so glad I (somewhat blindly) answered the invitation.
Does this ring true in your own life? What was the catalyst or early beginnings of relationships and seasons that you hold most dear?
Dustin has a youthful curiosity that has never gone away. He finds people and their stories fascinating, and would also be content to sit alone in nature for hours. He loves imagining what he’ll be able to get away with as a senior citizen and gets a kick out of extremely dry jokes that have to be deciphered. But mostly, he strives to be a good husband and father, and hopes Christina and the girls find him moderately successful at doing so.