“Starting over! I really don’t like that phrase because it makes me feel like a failure.”
My friend’s lament as she chronicled the myriad life circumstances that derailed her healthy diet and exercise routines immediately resonated.
I have been a Weight Watchers (WW) Lifetime Member for 21 years. Not all of those years have found me maintaining my goal weight and I’ve “started over.” At one point, I changed my goal weight. What was realistic when I was 35 became less so as I crowded in on 50. Despite doing all the right things with food and exercise, I could not maintain that original weight goal without egregious crankiness. So I extended a little mercy to myself and increased the number that was acceptable on the scale.
This past June, however, I was far over that revised goal. Now that the entire program is online, it keeps a record of your history. Each time I started over, I had the history of past weigh-ins right in front of me. I could see the graph trend line gradually going up – mocking my lack of discipline, highlighting my failure.
I knew exactly how my friend felt. You probably do to.
Your “starting over” might not be about diet or fitness. It might be an unfinished college degree program or the need to change careers. Maybe your life circumstances find yourself newly single after a divorce. Maybe, today, it’s as simple as wanting to not meltdown when your toddler makes you late – again. Whatever it is, starting over implies we have tried it before but didn’t finish. Or, we failed.
Starting over has baggage and anchors us to our past.
Let’s not start over. Let’s begin.
Beginning is a gentle shift in perspective with a profound impact on our lives.
Beginning means there is no history. This is a new experience. A new journey. The story has not been written yet. All there is for us to see is our goal out in front of us.
I went to my WW meeting and asked if my history could be wiped out. Could I start fresh – today being the first day? I know how I got there. I didn’t need the mental beating that graph inflicted.
Paul, the former persecutor of Christians turned evangelist, knew this struggle well. He had a past that most of us would consider a disqualifier. Jesus is the giver of new life – not do-overs – and he called Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles. Along the way, Paul had plenty of experiences we might count as failures. He caused a riot in Ephesus, got his friends in Thessalonica arrested, had to sneak out of town more than once, and failed to convert a single person in Athens. What if Paul had focused on that instead of on his next destination?
He writes of his own faith journey, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Ph. 3:13b, NIV). Paul didn’t allow the things of his past to keep him from pursuing his goal. He settled those things once and for all. They were no longer part of his graph. Forgetting what was behind, he began.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to throw off everything that hinders our growing in faith, to fix our eyes on our new goal – Jesus – and to set about living in such a way to achieve that goal (Hebrews 12:1).
An attitude of beginning severs the anchor line of our past that hinders our forward progress. This is true in the big things and in each and every little thing that makes up our day. Our journey will always be imperfect. But let’s be like Paul.
Don’t start over.
Forget what is behind you. Throw off whatever is hindering you. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
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Denise Roberts is a Certified Lay Servant in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. She served as the leader of the women’s ministry for her local church and continues to share the relevancy of God’s Word where faith and life intersect. Learn more at deniseroberts.org