Celebrate small beginnings

Friendly Reminder: A weekly reflection from the QLC

The biblical book of Ezra recounts the story of the post-exilic community laying the foundations for their new temple. After decades of diaspora in which their markers of identity and faith were stripped from them, most of the people lifted “great shouts of praise” for this new beginning. But not everyone…

We read that “Many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid” (Ez. 3:12). Some suggest that they were weeping for joy. It’s possible, but context clues suggest the weeping came from a place of grief and disappointment. They were disappointed with how the new temple (as it was) couldn’t measure up to the old one.

Anytime someone starts something new, there is inevitably a mix of “sounds of joy” and the “sounds of weeping” (Ez. 3:13). There are folks excited about the new opportunities and energy that come as the foundations are laid. And there are others who are already disappointed with it. The new thing is doomed from the start because it can’t possibly meet the “hopes and fears of all the years” projected onto it. In addition, there is an unavoidable period of grief that comes with change, even positive change. The birth of anything new requires the death of the old, to some degree or another.

I believe God is always and everywhere “doing a new thing” (Is. 43:19). If that’s the case, we need to be prepared for the arrival of new people and projects and possibilities. And we need to celebrate when new foundations are laid. Even if our shouts of joy are mixed with some tears of grief over past “temples.”

Describing the same rebuilding project, the prophet Zechariah tells the people not to despise the day of “small things” or “small beginnings” (Zech. 4). It’s natural to grieve as the old passes and the new comes. But it’s unhealthy when that turns into “despising” the new. It’s easy to do. Our culture is full of online trolls, self-appointed prophets of doom and armchair cynics and critics. People who actually do something or build something are quickly attacked like a “tall poppy.” But when we immediately dismiss or despise a new thing, we risk standing against the Spirit’s surprising work among us. The tiny thing may just be a seed of renewal planted by the One who makes all things new. It may just be the skeletal structures for the rising of the dry bones (Ez. 37).

What small beginnings do you see in your life, meeting, or organization?
How can you support and celebrate those new things?