The gift of a fresh start
When you create a fresh start or begin a new routine, do you like to be in control of when and how it happens? Or would you prefer being forced to change due to some outside pressure?
For most of us, I’m sure we’d rather be in control. But why do we so often wait until a crisis arises before we admit that change is necessary? It’s almost as though we want to hold tightly to what’s familiar, even if it causes us to flounder, rather than accept that change is not our enemy and loosen our grip to allow God to move and create change in our lives. Sadly, failures and emergencies are more often the catalysts of a change that’s long been necessary.
A healthy way to move into a new fresh start requires us to look ahead and recognize the need for change before it’s a necessity – and this is best done proactively. But how can we start fresh before crisis requires it?
First and foremost, it is vital that we seek God’s face and His guidance. When we come to the realization that we need His wisdom to understand our needs and clearly see the reality of our own situation, we’re more able to make effective changes. And when we seek God’s face, we’re able to learn more about ourselves in the process. It’s during these times of searching and being open to letting God move in our lives that He can reveal the truth in our hearts – what actually motivates us. And when these truths are revealed, He either shows that He is pleased or we feel Him chastise us in order to surrender to the greater good He has in store.
Too often, though, we approach change with our own agenda and simply ask God to join in rather than seek Him to discern how He wants things to move forward. If you feel yourself trying to take control of a situation, work and pray through these questions:
- What keeps us from change?
- Are we afraid of the unknown?
- Are we afraid of failure?
- Are we afraid of success?
What about faith? Does faith help us move ahead in these situations?
With new change and fresh starts also comes opportunity to create new routines – but we need to be mindful that the security of routine can also become one of the roadblocks that keeps us from being adaptable as the needs of a situation evolve.
This September, Pauline and I find ourselves at the cusp of change. It’s the first time in 20 years that we won’t be alongside families in the school supplies aisle, lists in hand, preparing for a new school year. Our children have all graduated and they’re off in various occupations, so we’re no longer a part of the school year routine.
Our ability to accept this change is dependent on our attitude going forward. We can wish we still had time with our children at a stage when they needed us the most, or we can anticipate how those relationships will grow in depth and freedom as we watch them soar. Having a healthy attitude makes all the difference.
There’s a small church in Manitoba where, for over 100 years, the gospel was preached, but after much deliberation and prayer, it ended up closing its doors. While it was a difficult decision for those who still attended, it was a necessary and proactive change God was in control of. At the time of its closure, there were only 20 or so congregants, but today, as a heritage site, it’s often filled to capacity. Whether it’s used for Mother’s or Father’s Day services, special evenings of worship singing in the German language of the settlers of the area, or even weddings, God is using this church in a new way. We even had the privilege of walking our son down the aisle on his wedding day.
Obviously, there are times when we’re uncertain about change. Even in the church, when we look ahead to a new year and make decisions for new programs, events and services, we can be tempted to hold onto the familiar. It’s no surprise that our emotions can come to the surface, driving our decisions, when we feel our comfort being challenged. It’s at these moments when we must check our hearts and ask those questions that can reveal the truth of our motives. After all, when Jesus walked the earth, He often brought about change.
Consider when He broke cultural norms of the day by speaking to the Samaritan woman. Even though Jesus was criticized by those who thought He was going against the procedures, rules and laws of the day, He was being obedient to the Father.
When you’re facing change, what does your attitude look like? What if we, like Jesus, approached the horizon of change with the anticipation of possibility? God may want to show Himself to us in ways we’ve never seen or experienced. He may want us to start with fresh purpose before our situation gets so difficult change is a necessity. He calls us all to be faithful to His plan – whether it’s starting a new church program, taking a college or seminary class, or creating a new routine to accommodate someone else in our life, let’s embrace it and see what’s going to come of it.
Sometimes, though, this is all easier said than done, especially when we’ve become very attached to what we’re leaving behind. In those cases, it’s crucial for us to acknowledge the pain and sadness we feel. It’s only when those emotions are worked through that we’re able to embrace the new normal God has ready on the horizon. And thankfully, God’s grace is always there.
No matter what change you may be facing, remember the beauty of the changing seasons. As the trees that were once shouting out their green transition into retirement mode in a vast array of beautiful colours, we recognize that change is good.
To learn more about how to view endings as a necessary and strategic step to something better, check out Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings.
Sam and Pauline Doerksen are the program directors at our Kerith Retreats Manitoba location. For more information on our retreats visit KerithRetreats.ca.