This week was the meeting of the North Texas Annual Conference. It is the last time the North Texas Conference will meet. It was unanimously approved to unite with the Central Texas and Northwest Texas Conferences, and to become the Horizon Texas Conference. The vote clears the way for the South Central Jurisdiction to redraw conference boundaries and approve this unification. This new conference will be a huge territory. Lots of new people to meet, lots of new clergy to meet, lots of new churches to get to know. It is a huge undertaking.

What struck me was the thought of endings and beginnings. They both usher in a flood of emotions. We generally respond to endings with sadness and grief, and to beginnings with joy and anticipation. But those emotional responses sometimes get jumbled up in such a way, both endings and beginnings can be viewed as bittersweet.

I’m never quite sure what to make of that word, bittersweet. What does it convey? How can something be both bitter and sweet?

I have a close friend whose sister passed away from cancer on Sunday morning. He text me to let me know. She battled the cancer with courage and grit, but her life did finally succumb to the ravages of that dreaded disease. Although my friend was very sad to see his sister’s life come to an end, he was also thankful for the time he knew her and for the fact she no longer had to suffer or be in pain. Hmmmm…bittersweet? That would be a pretty good description of what my friend is feeling.

So, I get it. Endings can have a real bittersweetness to them. Loss of a relationship can be bittersweet. Bitter because the loss is deep and painful. Sweet because both parties can move on into their own futures. The end of just about anything, I would imagine, would have those opposite feelings of bitter and sweet. I think I get it. In healing from our losses, we should acknowledge both ends of that spectrum. Its healthy to review how we feel, and its okay to feel both sides of that coin.

Beginnings seem to have lots of joy surrounding them. Birth of child can be so glorious. New job, what excitement for the future. New stirrings of the heart strings, what a wonderful feeling to fall in love. Joy just seems to be a major attendant to our new beginnings. I think, however, beginnings also come with some trepidation, some fear, some hesitancy. With beginnings come uncertainty about the future. With beginnings come fear of failure. With beginnings come unfamiliarity. I’m really getting a handle on this bittersweet thing. The sweet of beginnings is all the hopes, and dreams, and aspirations we feel. The bitter is the not knowing what’s ahead, and not knowing how it will be for us.

There are so many passages in the Bible which address this very dichotomy.

Psalm 30:5…”For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

John 16:22…”So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Psalm 30:11…You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness”

John 16:20…”Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

I’m sad to see the end of the North Texas Conference. It is the Conference where I joined the United Methodist Church. It is the Conference where I was ordained. It is the Conference where I have spent my entire ministry. So it is bitter to see it come to an end. My membership will now be in the Horizon Texas Conference. It seems my horizons have broadened and expanded. It seems the possibilities have increased exponentially. A newness and freshness are abounding in this beginning. I am feeling a little bittersweet, but I hold on to God’s unchanging hand knowing the bitterness of loss will pass, and the sweetness of what is to come will fill each of us. In Philippians 4:4 we’re told, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

The bittersweet moments in our lives are truly good for us to experience in their totality. We allow ourselves to experience this flood of emotions and they move us from sadness to joy, from grief to gladness. And each step along the way we find God is there with us.

May God continue to walk with us in all the moments of our lives, both bitter and sweet. May God give us the gift of unending love, mercy and grace.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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