I love to watch the sunset. If you’re in the right place, like the beaches of California watching the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean, it’s just one of those picturesque moments that stops you in your tracks. I see the glory of God in a sunset. His creativity is put on display in colors that can only truly be brought to life in the sky, painted by his hand. But just a couple of weeks ago, as I was admiring a sunset, I had this thought: Why do we romanticize sunsets and endings so much?
It starts in our childhood. Those stories and fairy tales that always begin with “Once upon a time…” they all have the same ending: “…and they lived happily ever after.” The white horse carries princess and prince charming into the sunset, and the story ends.
But what about the sunsets of our lives? Our sunsets are followed by sunrises — the dawning of new uncertainties. And even worse, the dark, lonely night that lies between the setting of the sun on one day and its rising on the next. So these stories and fairy tales don’t give us a blueprint on how to handle these places in our lives.
We were never told of how Cinderella’s orphan spirit probably took counseling and prayer ministry to work through the first few years of her marriage. Or about the beast’s anger management not just going away overnight when he got his human body back. And what about Snow White, who had seven dwarfs following her around all the time? Talk about baggage!
I know I’m making jokes, but this really is a lie we somehow believe, that our lives are supposed to look something like that. So we get lost when all of a sudden the day after our long-anticipated chapter-closing event takes place. This is why we have post-grad syndrome, and we spend the first few months of marriage saying or thinking, “no one told me __________.” I can imagine new moms might feel this, when they wake up in the middle of the night for feeding/changing/rocking/etc. We think so much about the ending of one season (college, engagement, pregnancy, or anything else, really), that we forget as soon as it ends another will begin.
We spend too much time watching the sunset and romanticizing the ending of something, and then we miss what’s next. So as I was watching the sunset a few weeks ago and thinking about all this, I felt God start to speak into this tendency in me. As I’m romanticizing the ending of one of the most refining, challenging, transforming years of my life, I felt like he said, “Sara, enjoy the sunset while it’s here, but don’t chase it. If you don’t turn around you’ll miss the sunrise — and I have something for you there.”
We chase the sunsets in our lives instead of turning east and facing its rising. And I think one of the reasons we do that is because we fear what’s in between. People handle the space between sunsets and sunrises differently. Some of us rest, and others are restless. Some of us dream and others fight nightmares. Do you see what I’m saying here? Our lives have night times and often they’re called transition. The space between an ending and a beginning.
Well, then I started thinking about sunrises. I’m kind of a night owl so it’s rare that I actually get up to see the sunrise. But there is something about the sunrise — that first glimpse of light into a new day. Sunrises actually speak way more into my personality than sunsets do. Sunsets are a goodbye of sorts, but sunrises are more like an invitation. The adventure of a new day rising and saying, “come and get it.”
Here’s the thing about sunrises, though: they’re full of uncertainty and surprises. Sunsets don’t leave much to be questioned — we all know what comes after them. Night. But sunrises… so much can happen in all the daylight that follows! One time I was in Costa Rica and I went for a sunrise hike with my dad and some friends early one morning. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. But you know what happened as soon as the sun came up and we reached the top? We got charged by a bull and literally ran down half the mountain! Seriously, this is a true story. Sunrises are full of surprises.
They’re not soothing and peaceful in the way that a sunset is, although they’re just as beautiful. Sunrises whisper the mystery of a road untraveled, a story yet to be lived. We should be chasing less sunsets and embracing more sunrises. I really believe this is the will of God for our lives.
God lives in the “to be continued.” His story has never ended, and it never will. Every day he invites us into more with him. Another day, a new adventure. That’s not to say that he doesn’t want us to enjoy the sunset and reflect on the day that’s ending. Noland and I are about to spend two weeks of sunset on this year of our life in Africa. But when we get back, we will stare into the dawn of a new season for us in Waco. And I can’t wait to run wildly into that new day.
Our endings are only meant to push us into new beginnings. And when this life ends, well, eternity begins. And eternity doesn’t have an ending. The sun never sets on eternity.