Sunlight filters through the kitchen Saturday morning as Diane and I clean up after last night's foray of getting kids fed and put to bed before we ourselves crashed. The kids (blessed, blissful relief) are sleeping in. A rare moment of togetherness for me and Diane, albeit amidst the ruins of dishes, macaroni stuck to everything, and clothes strewn across the floor. The coffee maker gives a few guttural coughs. Our first cup is ready. I glance at Diane, barefoot in capri pants and a loose blouse, and am taken back to my first attraction to her. On the radio come John Legend's romantic strains, "You're my end and my beginning" -- what a statement of love and devotion.
I pause. "Diane, am I your end and your beginning?"
"No," she says, flatly and unfiltered.
"Good answer," I say. She's thinking what I'm thinking: How foolish to make such a pronouncement to anyone, especially if you've known them for any length of time. We've been married long enough to know that neither of us is deserving of such praise. That could only belong to... well, God. In fact, the line "You're my end and my beginning" sounds very biblical. In the final book of the Bible, Revelation, we find this statement ascribed to God three times, "I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end."
The line from John Legend's song is also vaguely reminiscent of another line by T.S. Eliot's in his poem, "East Coker" (the 2nd of Four Quartets). The poem opens, "In my beginning is my end" and concludes several verses later with "In my end is my beginning." Between those two lines Eliot shows that intrinsic to every life is suffering, deterioration, and death. Even as life begins it is destined also to die. And near the end of his poem is a reference to Christ's death: "In spite of that [suffering and death], we call this Friday good." He's speaking, of course, about Good Friday.
T. S. Eliot reminds me I need to acknowledge my flawed, mortal nature (which is my confession) and more importantly run to embrace Christ's mortality (which is my absolution). Only then can I expect to find any relief or restoration. So, Eliot counters John Legend's proposition that another human being can be our end and our beginning. That honor is ultimately Christ's. He is where it all ends and all begins. He is where we as self-sufficient beings end and also where we begin anew as loved by Christ.
Another line in the John Legend song goes, "All of me loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections." Again, an amazing statement, but again misdirected if not directed to Christ. Most of us, after a short time in any relationship, understand these words for what they are -- infatuation borne on naive utterances. In truth, we can't accept much less endure these edges and imperfections in each other as we once may have. They grate on us. They make us turn the other way. They turn us into cruel, unforgiving jerks. In a moment of grace we may recognize our own imperfections as equally repulsive, and then perhaps begin to love the only "perfect imperfections" worthy of our devotion, Christ's own, because they are the ones that can truly complete us.
I walk up behind Diane and put my arms around her, grateful for this gift of a woman, wanting us to love each other in spite of and because of our flaws and imperfections. She turns to return my embrace just as our toddler's voice calls down from upstairs, "I need my bum wiped!" Right. Accepting our messes and embracing Christ's extends also to our children. I sigh. In my mind I'm rephrasing Eliot, "In my toddler's end is my beginning" every morning.