The congregation gathered to hear a eulogy for their friend, a colleague who had died after a long and full life. He had also become a member of the Church later in his life, accepting its message of faith after retirement. The speaker, a stake president, had this in mind when he mused that our whole life is a series of beginnings.
We begin at birth, we begin school, we begin college, we begin marriage, we begin our family, he explained, and each is a step forward in our progression to the final beginning, as a new member of the Kingdom of Heaven after a lifetime of learning.It's a nice thought, one that gives new perspective to the milestones of our lives. For indeed life is defined by the beginnings we make. Think of those first days entering school, when strange and different experiences flooded our minds with wonder. Or of beginning a first day at work, absorbing the sense of obligation along with the excitement of a new challenge. Or of watching children born, then grow in a world where every day is a beginning of something exciting and new.
Beginnings fill our lives: new jobs, new schools, new friends, new companions, new towns, new concepts of ourselves and our relationship to our Heavenly Father.
Often we fear a beginning, afraid that we will not measure up to the task ahead or not be capable of meeting its demands. It's difficult to make a change, and the inertia of our lives leaves us timid to accept new challenges. The only adequate response to that is the knowledge that our fear rises from a feeling of inadequacy, and that we overcome our inadequacies by work, study and prayer. Of these, prayer is far from the least: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," notes Proverbs 1:7. We can then face future uncertainties with the assurance that we have done all that is within our power to prepare, and our fears now only keep us from celebrating the beginning of a new adventure. An old saying sums it up best: "Well begun is half done."
Sometimes we also hesitate to make a beginning because we are simply unready to move. We've found what some observers call our comfort zone. Any beginning threatens to move us from that cozy place, and we don't know how well we'll like it in our new environs, whether physical or spiritual.
It would be very easy to settle back and accept a life without challenges, where change comes infrequently and isn't always welcome when it does. But that isn't the law of life; rather, it's the opposite. Living things grow, adapt and change as they constantly begin anew.
So rather than sit in complacency, we should ask ourselves whether we are in fact growing, finding new beginnings. That means we should examine ourselves frequently for signs of staleness. In the gospel sense, it could mean asking ourselves how much effort we have made to renew our testimonies. Have we nurtured our faith with the works needed to keep it growing? Have we made a routine out of our Church assignments instead of seeking new, innovative ways to fulfill them?
Christ, in His parable of the talents, made clear that we are not here solely as caretakers of the faith. Our admonition is to magnify our callings, to make new beginnings of faith and works in the time allocated us.
That said, we must also acknowledge that much can be said for stability, and we should not confuse motion for progress. Change for its own sake isn't always wise. A poorly thought out beginning can always send us in the wrong direction of regret and disappointment.
Paradoxically, beginnings have a way of reinforcing our appreciation of the past. We wouldn't trade the comfort of old friendships and loyalties for any amount of future acquaintances. Nor are we asked to. More often than not, each new beginning builds upon the conclusion of the last, and from ages past we are admonished that the end itself depends upon the beginning.
As Easter approaches that is a good thought to keep in our memories. Christ came as both a fulfillment and as a beginning: the fulfillment of past prophecies and anticipations, and the beginning of a new relationship of mankind to the Creator. Beginning with Him came the gospel of love and redemption, and beginning with Him came the resurrection: "He is the beginning," wrote Peter to the Colossians, "the firstborn of the dead." (Col. 1:18)
Without beginnings, we cannot by definition progress, which makes it even more important that we choose our beginnings wisely. And on that subject, the scriptures also give guidance: "For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept, and I will try you and prove you herewith." (D&C 98:12.)
In that sense, each precept is a new beginning, another step forward toward the eventual fulfillment of the Lord's plan for us.