Categories: Forgiveness, Identity, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Jacob, Perseverance
Have you ever wanted a "do-over" in life -- at school or work, with a family member or friend? When we were little, all we had to do was to call out, "Do-over!," and everyone would start the game over -- totally new. And we could start over as many times as people wanted.
We can have "do-overs" in life, too. It doesn't matter what type of situation we're in, how long we've been in it, or how deeply entrenched we are in the problem; we always have a second or third (or thirteenth or thirtieth) chance to start new with God.
Sometimes this seems hard because all we see are the mistakes, the pain, the hardships. But we can call out, "Do-over!" And we can start new. The past is in the past. So we can leave it there. Let's stop re-playing the same mistakes in our head, stop reacting to others in the same way, stop following the familiar patterns, and stop condemning ourselves or others to perpetual sameness. In this moment, right now, we are new.
In order to feel the freedom that this truth brings, we have to do more than simply call out, "Do-over!" We have to mean it. We have to live new. How do we break out of the old habits? We turn our lives over to God and let God renew us.
GOD made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I cleaned up my act,
he gave me a fresh start.
Indeed, I've kept alert to GOD's ways;
I haven't taken God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works,
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I'm watching my step.
GOD rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
(The Message, 2 Sam 22:21-25)
When we open our lives to God, we get a whole new view of ourselves.
- God doesn't see us as struggling, troubled, failing, stuck, or horrible human beings.
- God sees us as His beloved children, made in His own beautiful and perfect "image" (Gen 1:26), perfectly capable of fully expressing Him.
When we focus on God instead of our mistakes, we feel a change in our hearts. This peaceful, perfect view of ourselves necessarily changes our thoughts, actions, and lives.
Regardless of what we've done or how we've acted, God can renew us. By placing the "pieces" of our lives before God, by staying "alert to GOD's ways," by seeing our true, divine natures, we take advantage of the blessings of "do-overs." Just look at all the people in the Bible who discovered the blessings of new chances:
- Jacob and Esau received a blessing years after Jacob stole the blessing that Esau had traded away earlier. When Jacob returned home, he and his brother reunited with love and peace (Gen 33).
- Both Joseph and his brothers got to start over. Joseph was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and thrown into prison. But God lifted him up and renewed his life, just as God gave his brothers the opportunity to repent when they found Joseph alive and well in Egypt (Gen 45).
- Moses had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (Ex 2). But that didn't stop God from having amazing plans for Moses (Ex 3). God expected Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery so that they could be free to worship God (Ex 14).
- Jesus gave second chances in life to everyone he healed: the woman who had been "bowed" over for 18 years (Luke 13:11); the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe (Luke 8:43); the man waiting for healing for 38 years at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2); the lepers who were cleansed (Luke 17:12); the deaf and mute whose ears were opened and tongue was freed (Mark 7:35); the woman "taken in adultery" (John 8:3). Their health, their lives were forever changed, revitalized, renewed, and restored.
- Even after Peter denied Jesus (Mark 14:66), Peter got another chance to stand up rather than cower away. Jesus forgave him, and Peter fully accepted that forgiveness (John 21:15). Peter went out and changed others' lives -- healing, preaching, and building a church.
- What a new life Paul had! He had an entire "do-over." As Saul, he persecuted the Christians. But his entire being was transformed (Acts 9). And Paul did his life over -- totally -- spreading Christianity. Talk about being "born again" (John 3:3)!
And that's exactly what having new chances is all about -- being born again. But how can we be "born again"? That's the same question Nicodemus, a very important Pharisee, asked Jesus when he came to him in the cover of the night:
"How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"
Jesus said, "… Unless a person submits to this original creation -- … a baptism into a new life -- it's not possible to enter God's kingdom." (The Message, John 3:4, 5)
What a message Jesus had for Nicodemus and for us! If we want a fresh start, all we have to do is to submit, surrender, yield to God's "original creation" of us.
- That original creation is being "born from above" (The Message John 3:3) -- being "born of the Spirit" (3:6 KJV). That means we're spiritual.
- Our lives are defined by Spirit, not by all of our human failings or successes.
- Our identity is not tied up in all the stuff we've done in the past. Our identity is defined by the way God has already created us -- as "image."
- All that an image does is reflect the original. That original is God.
- We can stop the struggle and be God's image.
- We can give up the old ways of looking at ourselves and accept how God sees us.
God is continually showing us our own pure, unique, perfect, divine natures. When we completely surrender our lives to God, we stop fighting with ourselves. This leaves us wide open to feel the Spirit move through our lives -- indeed, move our lives. If we really want a "do-over" in life, we can have it. God can do wonders with us each and every moment. So let's turn over our hearts to God.