Two simple words… starting over. They seem innocuous enough and perhaps they are at face value. Mix in a few other spices of life, however, take a look beneath the surface and I believe we may find that these two words provide us with unexpected opportunities for new growth. Well, that has been my recent reflections anyhow.
What is your first gut reaction to the words “starting over”? If you’re like most, those words bring either a feeling of excitement, anticipation for something new and a touch of gratefulness for the new chance bestowed upon you; or they may bring a sense of worry, disappointment, and a bit of fatigue thinking about all the work that needs to be done once again. The reaction you have to the statement most likely depends on a host of variables, some of which may include your current circumstance, the situation you envision starting over, and probably your perspective of the situation. For example, if you imagine yourself on the ninth hole at your local golf course and you’ve just pulled your shot into that obnoxious sand trap to your left, you may be overjoyed at the possibility to start over. In golf starting over can be a great gift, so much so that golfers even have a name for it. They call it a mulligan, a do over, a chance to try again. In these types of circumstances, it is easy to see the positives and identify the new growth opportunity as a chance to improve upon an action or perfect a skill.
But what about the second set of feelings surrounding a “start over” circumstance? You know the one that produces the worry, disappointment, or feeling of fatigue. How does one see the positive or find new growth opportunities in a situation that may seem too big to start over? Imagine working for days on a research paper which you have saved all the progress for on a thumb drive, just to find out the next time you go to open the document an error has occurred and all your work was lost. Of course, true to fashion you didn’t have a backup document saved on your desktop and you have that sinking feeling in your gut. After a few forced ejections and rebooting your computer, reality sets in…all is lost and there is no option but to start again from the beginning.
We all find ourselves in some variation of these situations at one time or another in life, and it is quite possible that we experience both the joyful start over opportunities as well as the less joyful ones. My family and I are in one of these start over situations at this very moment. Lots of big changes surrounding our relocation for work. Suffice it to say that a global pandemic isn’t helping a move with four young children feel any less like a complete reset. I find myself in a rush to get back to that settled place, that place of familiarity and control. I want to rush past this uncomfortable stage back to the place of comfort. Then in one of my quiet time moments after the kids had been put to bed, I was reminded that this uncomfortable moment is an opportunity for new perspective and new growth. I realized that my feelings of hurry could be replaced with the practice of patience. That my desire for control could be replaced with the practice of faith.
This timely reminder came to me with the help of author Justin McRoberts and artist Scott Erickson. Their work of partnering a hopeful action statement with a contemplative drawing does wonders in subtly inviting personal reflection. I’d like to leave you with the statement and drawing that reminded me of this valuable lesson in life. As we go into the new year there are likely to be times of starting over for each of us, both the joyful and the less joyful. I hope that you will see these opportunities not as one in which all is lost, but rather as one that provides you the chance to build upon the knowledge and experience you have already lived. A perspective that sees starting over as a gift to encourage new growth.
“May I never grow tired of starting over or helping others do the same. My hope is always in renewal and resurrection.” (prayer 29)
McRoberts, J. & Erickson, S. (2019) Prayer: Forty Days of Practice. New York: Waterbrook.
Tyler Huston, Program Architect at ULEAD