Monday, November 19, 2018

Anew or Again?

"Do-overs" in life are rare. We 'do' something, get the results we didn't intend, then desire a 'do-over'. If we are fortunate to have an eraser on our pencil, we can erase the failed calculation from the paper, but remember - there will always be a hint of what was once written there. We are incapable of really erasing every aspect of the 'wrong' answer. In life, we are incapable of really erasing the past mistakes - although we may get a 'do-over'. It is only in God's hands that the slate is truly wiped clean. He is the one making the 'do-over' really more of a 'begin anew' instead of a 'begin again' kind of scenario!

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start, your slate's wiped clean. Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you and you're holding nothing back from him. (Psalm 32:1-2)

What does a 'do-over' really hope to accomplish? Isn't it a change in the outcome? We hope to improve our outcomes by getting another chance to do it again. We can be very disappointed in life when we realize there are some choices we just have to live with the outcome we have achieved. Since my life has been less than perfect when it comes to the choices I have made, I am relieved to know that God is not a God who refuses to allow "do-overs"! There are times in life when we so desperately need to have a fresh start - we need the slate wiped clean - so that we might "begin anew". 

The goal of "beginning anew" is that we might see a different outcome - it isn't that we just begin again, because that suggests we will take some of the same steps we took the first time. A pastor friend often says, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." He's indeed a wise man! You cannot expect to repeat things you have failed in (just do-again) and see better outcomes if you always approach the failure with the same attitude, actions, or aptitude. Truth be told, we need a different attitude toward the situation, actions that are not as haphazard or misdirected, and the ability to make different choices where it counts.

With God's help, we can face life's "failures" with a different attitude. Those that have known me for a while have heard me say many times that attitude determines our altitude. It is an aeronautical saying meaning wherever the nose of the plane is facing determines the altitude the plane will assume. If the nose is level, the plane flies level. If the nose is pointed upward, it climbs to new heights. Conversely, pointing the nose downward brings the plane to new "lows" that may not be the safest flying conditions!

God comes alongside to help us embrace new actions (not just doing again) - not repeating the same actions that brought us to the place of failure the first time. To many who have "tried and tried again", this statement seems unbelievable and way too simplistic. Yet, it is true - we have a God who is quite aware of each step that brought us to this point of failure and he stands ready to help us be aware of those steps so that we don't repeat them again. We may not fully embrace his reminders to not "mis-step" along the way, but he is there, nonetheless. It is still a matter of us choosing to make the most of each "do-over" God gives by embracing the help he provides along the way to begin 'anew', not just 'again'.

Sometimes we have failures because we simply lack the aptitude to do what it is we have ventured into. There are times when we can "learn" the skill we need to succeed in that venture - there are others when we simply need to let it go - it wasn't the right venture to be on. If we are able to learn the skill, we usually see better outcomes the next time around. For example, burn the first piece of toast and you will likely not leave the toaster unattended the second time around. You need to develop an aptitude for making toast! If we simply believed that toast was supposed to be a black, charred wafer of wheat that we gag down with a little jam to cut the taste of charcoal, we'd never really learn to enjoy toast as it was meant to be enjoyed.
"Do-overs" are a gift from God. We simply have to ask for them - we call that repentance. In turn, he grants us the opportunities to "do-over" what brought us to the point of repentance in the first place. That does not mean that we "do-over" the same things - but that we learn from the experience, embrace the grace we are given to face similar challenges in the future, and then trust God that we will listen carefully to his "coaching" along the way. In turn, we are blessed. Perhaps you are in a place where you are longing for a "do-over" in your life. We all find ourselves there at one point or another. We need some adjustment in our attitude, crave to pursue new actions, or simply know that we need to learn from the experience we have just walked through. God stands ready to answer that prayer. He is the God of "do-overs"! He holds nothing against us when we hold nothing back from him! Just sayin!