New starts - what exactly are they? In everyone's life, there come opportunities to "begin again", "make a fresh start", or have a "do-over". The thing about each of these is the "carry-over" from the old into the new. Let me explain what I mean. Take a tablet or pad of paper and a pencil or pen. Now write these words: "I just failed". Go ahead - do it. Now, tear off that sheet of paper and throw it away. What you are left with is a "clean" tablet of paper - right? Not really! Gently run your fingers over the surface of that table of paper and then hold it up to the light at an angle. See or feel it? Yep, there is a tell-tale sign of the old message you wrote there, isn't there? As much as we thought we go rid of the old, we still had some indication of it being there. It isn't much different from that every time we go to make a fresh start, begin again, or attempt a do-over in life! We have those tell-tale signs of the old which act as reminders to us of the whole reason we are "beginning again" in the first place.
The Lord’s love [loyalty] never ends; his mercies [compassion] never stop. They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty [faithfulness] is great [abundant]. (Lamentations 3:22-23 EXB)
You may know this verse from the good old King James: It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Either way, the message is the same - we can count on God's mercy to be new every morning. His compassion never stops. His love never ends. I think to understand this we also need to consider in light of one other verse: And he has taken our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12 ERV) God's mercies are new because he doesn't just tear off the sheet which contain the list of our sins or shortcomings, but he actually gives us a new tablet of paper upon which we may right our life's story anew!
That might be tough for each of us to fully grasp, but when we finally do, it is a life altering experience! The way we see things is through the eyes of "beginning again". The way God sees things in our lives is through the eyes of "beginning anew" - in a new form or a new manner. In other words, we don't do it in our power, but in the power and grace he provides. We don't pick up the same tablet of paper and try to rewrite the story - he gives us the new tablet and helps us begin to pen the words which reflect the beauty and liberty of his grace in our lives. In our common day language, again and anew are used interchangeably. In God's way of doing things, again means we pick up the pieces - anew means he does it!
A pastor friend of mine can frequently be heard saying, "As long as we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always gotten". Now, I know that may not be good grammar, but the point is poignant. "Starting again" is like doing what we have always done, but with maybe this little "alteration" in how we will approach the problem. "Starting anew" is doing it completely in a different manner - because we want a different outcome! We don't want repeats - we want an entirely new result. There is a contemporary Christian song which has the words, "It's day one of the rest of your life..." The idea is that of beginning anew. Renewed mercies each time we fail. Not just "refilled" mercies, but renewed mercies. They are new - because we need new starts.
Again suggests it is the same person or place. If we have written something upon the tablet we may not think of as "good" or "right", and then attempt to "rewrite" the outcome in exactly the same "place" or by the same "efforts" of the person who managed to write the "wrong" outcome in the first place, then we will likely see the messages from the past "bleeding through" on the pages of our lives! If we understand what God says about how he forgives and removes our sins (shortcomings, failures, negative outcomes), then we understand he isn't asking us to have the same "person" start again. He is giving us the ability to start anew because his mercies bring the life of his Son alive in us and it is by his power we begin "anew". Just sayin!