Blessing the New Beginning

As a child I really loved the circus. One of the only times my dad was able to talk my mom into letting me skip school was to accompany him to see an old fashioned circus tent being raised without modern equipment. We watched the horses and elephants harnessed to equipment as tent poles were elevated and rigging was raised. I was awestruck. Disney’s Dumbo and Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth were two of my favorite films. My dad even created a large circus tent I could assemble and play inside of with all of my circus toys. It was one of my favorite pastimes as a kid.

Not long ago Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus realized public opinion has dramatically turned on the circus industry. People are raising questions about the ethics around the treatment of the animals performing in the acts. Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus decided running a circus was no longer prudent nor profitable in the 21st century. The show will not go on. Although I hadn’t attended a circus in the 21st, it made me sad to think future generations would never have the experience. I shed a few tears for the circus when I heard the news.

The advancement of time is inevitable and eventually claims cherished traditions, social conventions, cultural occurrences, whimsical entertainment, and even loved ones. I’m old enough to vaguely remember mimeographs, cigarette vending machines, and a time when television networks signed off at night. I grew up without internet in my house until I was in high school, and even then it was dial up. For many people just several years younger than I am, the world I can remember never existed. Yet Father Time is undefeated and catches up to everyone and everything.

In May, people graduate from high school, college, and graduate school. It seems like some of those people were just born a few years ago. They can’t already be graduating, can they? But regardless of how we feel about it, change is always coming. When I was at Baylor University, I would watch incoming first year students try on new identities like they were trying on new shoes. Graduation brings its own set of challenges for graduates. Prospects of securing gainful steady employment, buying a house, and settling down in marriage are elusive. And many graduates don’t place the same value and immediacy on those markers as we might have. Can we bless this new beginning in the lives of our loved ones?

Can we celebrate the moment without saddling them with ill-fitting expectations? I’m sure Mary had to take more than her fair share of deep breaths as she watched the unconventional path of her son Jesus. I imagine the parents of the great Judge Deborah or the Prophet Huldah never imagined such atypical positions of leadership when their daughters were growing up. And if we’d known the parents of the Prophet Ezekiel or John the Baptist, I’m sure they’d have warranted a patronizing “Bless your heart” from us. Yet all these heroes of the faith were blazing the path to new beginnings. May we shower our graduates and loved ones in transition with gifts of deep listening, open-ended questions, encouraging words, and faith-filled prayers.