Loose ends used to be my kryptonite. They drained me. I relished that college feeling of finals over, papers in. I hated it when there were things that I had to let ride, let sit, let slide. I wanted life all wrapped up and sent off to bed. I wanted tomorrow to be a fresh start. Loose ends made me grumpy.
But it’s been a while since I’ve experienced anything like having it all wrapped up. These days, I’m just glad to keep everything from falling apart. My life is a bundle of loose ends. One is neatly knotted off, and ten more fray. Lovely!
I’ve been trying to learn to live into a spirituality of loose ends. Why fear them? After all, the Apostle Paul claimed that there was only one loose end we needed to worry about: the love of God in us that “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). And the sage of Ecclesiastes equated death with cutting off the ultimate loose end: our lives (12:6), which ought to make us a little cautious about wanting to have all the loose ends tidied up. Life is fraying.
Loose ends teach us something. For one thing, it’s not all up to us. Our part in the fabric of things is small (precious and essential, but small!) Forget the fixation on endings. We will start things and finish things and snip things clean away. But it’s not all up to us. Woe to those who think they’ve got to do it all.Loose ends remind us that we don’t hold everything together. There were others before us, and there will be others after, but most importantly, Jesus is the center. Listen to Paul again: “in [Christ] all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
As my family and I dream of some upcoming sabbatical time, I contemplate what it means to lay down the responsibilities of ministry for a season. If I’m not careful, I find that it’s easy to believe that it’s all up to me, that I’m the one holding everything together. This may be a special deception we small-town pastors fall into. Big churches have a different dynamic. In one giga-church that I know, the pastor gets the summer off to hone his messages for the next year. Why not? There are a dozen other pastors on staff to take up the threads. I, on the other hand, have to work at developing my spirituality of loose ends.
In a spirituality of loose ends, maybe we start to learn to hold things a little more lightly. Maybe we look out the window, rest, breath, walk. Maybe we don’t have to fear the loose ends. Maybe–