Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beginning and the End

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," God says. The beginning and the end. And it sounds powerful when He says it like that. (Another translation of the Bible, in an attempt to bring this into more common English, says, "I am the A and the Z," and while this is what Alpha and Omega really means, it somehow packs less of a punch this way. It just sounds...weird.)

But have you stopped to think about what this really says?

It says that everything starts and ends with God. He creates, and He restores. He makes, and He redeems. He builds, and He destroys. Everything begins as a seed of His divine imagination and ends in His harvest. Which sounds encouraging. Which sounds hopeful. Which sounds incredible. 

Were it not for all that stuff in the middle.

See, it's all that stuff in the middle that most of us just don't know what to do with. It's all that stuff between where we came from and where we're going that throws us for a loop. It's all that junk between yesterday and tomorrow that leaves us wondering - who is this God? And where is He? Is He simply the beginning and the end? Is that enough?

It's hard. It's hard to be stuck in a place like this, somewhere between creation and restoration, somewhere between formation and redemption. Somewhere between life and...life abundant. It's hard to be in this place where we, the seed of His imagination, are left struggling to break through the ground of this earth, struggling to grow and reach toward the life-giving light, waiting through the seasons for the chance to bear our fruit. It's hard here. Is really the God who is the first and the last of any comfort in a place like this?

Not much. But the God who is the Alpha and Omega is.

Alpha and Omega has to do with much more than just what's first and what's last. I don't think it's an accident that when God is picking beginnings and ends with which to equate Himself, He chooses the letters of the alphabet. He's an author, after all. He's a bit of a wordsmith. He knows what He's saying. And what He's saying is this:

If you put life in order, God is the first and the last. But life is not so simple. Life is made of this mess in the middle; it is made of the things that come between. Beta, gamma, delta...B, C, D...all the way to Phi, Chi, Psi...W, X, Y...these are the things that life is made of, along with the Alpha and Omega. Along with the A and the Z. The beginning and the end, as represented in the letters, are themes that keep showing up in our lives again and again. That's the nature of language. That's why the author uses letters to show us; He's using those letters to build words. And He's using those words to build a life.

You can't write for very long without coming into contact with at least the Alpha. A is a very common letter. It shows up again and again in our most common vocabulary. It's already shown itself in this paragraph 20 times! And as God is writing your story, you see this, too. The beginning keeps showing up again and again. It keeps coming back to what God intended when He made you. It keeps coming back to creation, formation, the very breath of life God has breathed in you. It keeps reminding you of the Alpha, of the God who comes first and who, from the very beginning, has been a part of this thing.

The Omega, of course, is a bit harder to come by, at least in our alphabet. It's actually a very common letter in the Greek; our Z, not so much. But this, too, is a reminder that as God is writing your story, He keeps dropping hints of the end, too. He keeps introducing the ideas of restoration, redemption, of life abundant. He weaves the end into your middle, as well, to keep you holding out hope for what is to come.

We don't just get this from "the beginning" and "the end." It's easy to lose when we talk about simply "the first" and "the last." But put it in word form, put it in the letters, give us "the Alpha" and "the Omega," and you can't help but see God show up again and again in your story. You can't help but find Him in the mess in the middle. 

Life...and God...are about so much more than where things began and where they are going. Life...and God...are about where things are. They're about life right now, about this mess in the middle. Life...and God...are not just about the Once Upon a Time and the Happily Ever After; they are about everything that gets us from one to the other. They are about the magic unfolding in-between. They're about how the story is being written.

Don't believe me? Look for the A and the Z. You'll find them there in your story. All through it, really. Creation, restoration, formation, redemption, life...and life abundant. Lest you lose sight of the God who is writing your words.

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