A prayer for beginnings and endings

Sitting with Eugene, getting ready for the interview with Bono. (Photo credit: Taylor Martyn.)

My screenwriter friends tell me that writing the ending is the hardest part of crafting a story. As a pastor I am often aware that good beginnings to the key moments in life are hard for people to make happen. And while some birthdays are fine, other birthdays are hard, and still others are just a bit odd.

A year ago today, Phaedra and I were in Lakeside, Montana, getting ready for the film shoot with Bono that would take place two days later, on Sunday, April 19. It was a Friday afternoon when we drove down to Eugene and Jan Peterson's home, overlooking Flathead Lake. There we shared a simple meal of soup and crackers. The conversation was leisurely. A gas fire crackled in the background.

While I was aware that we were beginning what would turn out to be a rather unusual project, I marveled, yet again, at the Peterson's unselfconscious manner. To them, we, like everybody else they've met along the way, we were just two people, nothing more, nothing less, but always deserving a careful hearing, a gentle presence.

It reminded me of the way that Eugene conducted himself with his students at Regent College in the mid to late 1990s. It's perhaps an odd thing to say, but Eugene was never a needy professor. He was simply himself. He had things to say that of course he hoped we might hear, but he never indulged us, never sought to impress us, never kept himself aloof.

And though he rarely gave us advice and while he seemed constitutionally allergic to doling out practical counsel, he did pray for us. He prayed for us because he believed that that is what we needed most as seminary students: to pray and to be prayed for. And that, it seems to me, was a great gift to me, and I’m guessing, to many others over the years.

So I celebrate my birthday today by including one of my favorite prayers of Eugene’s. It’s a prayer that I probably should memorize. I won’t likely, but it’s a good one that hopefully I’ll revisit often enough.

“God of all beginnings and all endings, I bring all my unfinished business to you—everything that I started and couldn’t finish, all that I began but lost interest in, all that I began in hope and quit in despair. Make finished work of all of it, by your grace. Amen.”


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