Monday over Coffee: Begin Again

Published September 13, 2021 by SMBC

Begin Again

As a teenager, it was my job to care for the yard. I?d roll out our green Lawn Boy mower from the storeroom, pull the starter, and cut the grass. It was a chore, but I came to enjoy the exertion and the feeling of visible accomplishment the task bestowed. One particular Saturday morning, however, problems arose. One could say, mistakes were made. Nothing happened when I pulled the starter. This in and of itself wasn't a big deal as the mower was old and the starter finicky, often requiring some finesse to engage. I tried to get the mower started several more times until, all out of finesse, I yanked the string so hard it broke off.

My dad soon appeared to examine the inoperable mower, then to cross-examine me about what had occurred before assigning me the alternative task of laying down some new grass in a dead spot in the yard. Casting aspersions at the now-defunct lawn mower, I retrieved a shovel and a wheelbarrow from the storeroom, loaded some squares of grass we still had from a previous project and headed out to the bare spot. But as I began to turn over some ground with the shovel, I heard a sharp, distressing noise?the sound one might associate with a sharp tool slicing through an underground pipe. Terrific, I thought.

Having done nothing thus far other than balloon our family's ?Necessary Repairs? budgetary earmarks, I was feeling mad, sad, and bad about myself all at once when my mother suggested we do something useful rather than complain about our lot in life. We?d go get the lawn mower fixed.

After loading it into the trunk of her car, I slumped down in the front seat and put my feet up against the front windshield. Now, let me pause here to say in my defense I wasn't pushing that hard against the glass. However, the engineers at Buick would probably have disagreed as their windshield suddenly cracked several inches out in all directions at the foremost point of pressure.

I looked at my mother wide-eyed as ordinary negligence rose to gross negligence, self-pity turned to self-loathing, and the repair bills doubled in an instant. ?I?m sorry,? I said, tearfully expecting, if not fury, the even more painful ?I?m not mad, I?m just disappointed in you? talk. But I got neither. My mother just looked out her newly-spidered windshield and then at me next to her. ?I tell you what,? she said. ?Why don't you go back to your room, then come back out, and let's just start the day all over again.?

Adam, Eve, the whole world in Noah's day, Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Samson, the ancient nation of Israel, King David, Peter, Thomas, Paul?one could go on and on. The notion of beginning again is offered with such regularity in the Bible that it seems thematic. And the idea is likewise deeply woven into God's Creation itself. It's in the seasons, in how fallow ground returns to life, and in how when things die, they become the makings of new birth. It's embedded in how God made us, too. It's built into the rhythm of our days?in how we fall asleep, only to awake the next morning to begin again.

If God, as it seems, is urging us to align ourselves more closely with this theme, how might we do this? What sort of daily practice might help us and train us to more vividly and durably embody grace, mercy, resilience in our lives? Given I?m the one who's always breaking lawnmowers, puncturing pipes, and shattering windshields, you might take my idea with a grain of salt, but here it is:

As you pray, meditate, or try simply to remain quiet listening for God, you'll no doubt notice how easy it is to get distracted. I know that I often start to pray only to realize I've been lost in my own thoughts for who knows how long. Well, when that happens - at that moment of realization you've wandered off - instead of feeling mad, sad, or bad about yourself, do something useful instead. For it is in that sudden return to a clear witness of the lost contents of our prayers that we can practice grace and mercy and simply begin again. It's in that moment we can train our minds and souls to embody resilience. And it's from right there that - without judgment, without disappointment, without fury or irritation - we can simply return to God and, standing free from our failures, just begin again.

God - Help me to feel the grace of each new day, Your theme, mine. May I just begin again.


?Greg Funderburk