“And he who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new… these words are trustworthy and true…'” (Revelation 21:5, RSV)
Many years ago, an acquaintance of mine was struggling with some difficult situations in her life. She decided to go on a solitary weekend retreat, spending the time reading Scripture and praying. She told me she was certain that God would honor her efforts and give her some new and creative ways to fix her problems. Her time was spent as she intended, but despite her previous certainty, no clear heavenly guidance emerged.
Frustrated, she began complaining to God on her drive home: “I don’t know what you want me to do, Lord! I’ve tried and tried and failed every time to do things right, to make things right. I thought you would tell me what to do about all this, but I haven’t heard anything from you this whole weekend! I just feel like giving up.”
She told me that a short time after this outburst, she experienced a remarkable thing. Deep inside, in her heart, she heard some words: “Begin again. That’s what my grace is – a new beginning”.
I’ve never forgotten that. How simple, yet profound: “Begin again”. As humans, we have a tendency to believe that if we’ve tried something over and over and failed, it’s useless to try again; that our past failures are predictors of the future as well. In actuality, every time we try once again to change a habit in our lives (exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, pray every day, etc) – something we have tried and failed to change in the past – we’re statistically more likely to succeed. Yup, it’s true, even though it feels counterintuitive.
The real enemy is despair, a giving up of hope that my life can be different, that I can grow and change. When my focus is on myself, I tend to look at all my failures and I’m prone to despair. I know my frailties and my limitations, and I can end up believing that I’m just not enough, so I might as well give up.
If I look instead at my Heavenly Father, and his love and his grace (available in such abundance, free for the asking!), and remind myself of the promises of Scripture, I might just be able to change my perspective; I might suddenly find the courage to “pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again”, as the old song goes. I know this truth, but often forget.
So – it’s a new year, a chance for a new beginning. I can resolve to change one or two small things that are key: go to bed earlier, take more walks, eat more vegetables, turn my phone off during meals. But over and above all this, I must keep connected with the Source of my hope – the God who sees me, knows me, loves me and has provided everything that I need to begin again, begin anew, each day as I walk this pilgrimage to Heaven.