To a writer, one of the most simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating sights in the world is a blank page. The idea that we get to begin again, write something new and inspiring, express the things in our hearts and minds in a whole fresh way is thrilling. But with it comes the knowledge that new beginnings take work. Getting started is painful and excruciating. We type a few words, delete them and try again. Even if we’ve been writing for a long time, the first few attempts we make at something new are often clunky and awkward and painful. We worry that we’ll never be able to write again, that we’ll never fill a page with words that make sense, that this new beginning will actually be the end of our future as a writer. We get up and pace, we suddenly decide to do VERY IMPORTANT THINGS like clean the grout in the kitchen or search online for unclaimed money that might be in our names, and we avoid our keyboards for ridiculously long periods of time. (I may or may not be doing this right at this exact moment)
But then, it starts to happen. Slowly, lamely, we get started. We push away the fear and we pound at the keys and pray that this word will connect to the next one and the one after that. We write a little and a little more, and pretty soon, that fresh start becomes a fresh story and we discover that getting started was truly the hardest part.
When I read the scripture that says “God’s mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23), I’m reminded that all sorts of new beginnings can feel like a blank page for me. Sometimes, in a good way; I look to a new year or new season or even a new individual day and I am so excited to have a new beginning and a new chance to get out there and live the way that I hope to live. I embrace the chance to experience for myself the amazing grace that you catch a glimpse of when you wake up anew each morning.
Other times, I look at a new day with sheer terror. I stare at the hours ahead through partially opened eyes, clouded by the memories of how badly I messed up the day before. I worry that I’ve blown it, I’ve committed to too much, or eaten the wrong things, or loafed too long, or I’ve not loved my people right, or that I’ve nothing left to give. I get mad that I let myself gain this much weight, that I’ve picked up this bad habit again, that I’ve lost touch with my teenagers, or that I’ve gone this many days without reading my Bible or praying. I’m embarrassed that I am not who I want to be and I freeze up a little bit. I don’t even know where to start.
And then, slowly but surely, I remember the basic principle of blank pages: how do you write something new? One word at a time. It aligns nicely with other life principles: you change your eating habits one bite at a time, you purge your piles of paper one sheet at a time, you fix friendships one apology at a time, you hang out more with your family one minute at a time, you read your Bible one verse at a time. New beginnings come only when we take a risk and step out. The longer we stare at the pile of laundry that needs to be washed or the text we should return or the pants that used to fit, the louder fear’s voice gets that says “This can’t be done. It’s too late to start. You don’t have enough time/skills/money/energy to begin again.”
The beautiful thing about new mercies every morning, new chapters in books, blank pages on laptops, is that even if yesterday you could not find within yourself to write another word, you have a new chance today. Today can be the day when you can say “In the past, I used to (fill in your thing here… scream at my kids every morning, drink too many diet cokes, never find time to exercise, spend too much time on Facebook), but today is a whole new day to try again!”
If you give yourself permission to embrace the fresh new beginning that God has already given you, maybe today’s the day you do something you thought you just couldn’t do. Fear can’t stand up to action, and even a few, clunky, awkward steps in the right direction is a heckuva lot better than standing still. So what if that apology came out funky, or you were only able to exercise for a few minutes before you had to sit down and catch your breath? What does it matter if you only got one load of laundry done, one shelf of the fridge cleaned out, one page of that application filled out? You’re now one step closer than you were before. And tomorrow morning, when you get yet another chance for a new beginning, you’ll have the victory of yesterday to remind you that blank pages are not obstacles to get around, but new opportunities to be who you were created to be.
What is it that you have been putting off? What has been weighing you down? Tomorrow, to borrow a phrase from Anne Shirley, is a new day with no mistakes in it. Take advantage of your fresh beginning. Take a moment before you go to sleep tonight to pray about how to use your new opportunity. That way when you wake up, you can take on the blank page of your new day and be excited to write something new:
“The old me used to ________________ but today is a new beginning! Today is the first day that I will start _______________________________________”
Can’t wait to hear what you and God come up with!