The Courage to Start Again

The Courage to Start Again

This past summer we celebrated my daughter Hillary’s second birthday and one of my other children decided to make her a gift. The gift was to be a memory book complete with pictures printed off from the computer for each page. I encouraged my child to make this gift. I thought it was a lovely idea and I had no doubt that she could make it. I was busy in the house and did not stop to help, but she hurriedly set to work in an artistic, passionate flurry. She found the papers, retrieved the stapler, and within a few minutes she had created a book. She started labeling each page for specific memories of Hillary’s second year. It was precious.

My daughter brought the book to me so I could see her progress. It was a little lopsided, but beautiful. I was proud of her work, but even more proud of her heart. As she started to flip through the pages I could tell immediately that one teeny detail was off and it was going to cause problems for the finishing of the book. I can’t even remember what it was, but when my daughter realized that she had made a mistake she was devastated.

I took a deep breath. I knew that she had a few options…all with certain consequences. She could keep it as is. It wouldn’t be perfect, but did that matter? It would be just fine. She could take out the staples and try again with these specific pages. Again, it wouldn’t be perfect and signs of the mishap might still be evident, but again…did that matter? Lastly, she could start over. The book had taken her about 15-20 minutes to make thus far. It wouldn’t be a huge loss of time.

It was very difficult, but I couldn’t make the decision for her. She was torn between wanting it to be perfect, which meant starting over and taking more time, and moving on, dealing with the imperfections.

She wrestled with these prospects for a while. It was a really tough decision. She ended up starting over. She decided the imperfection of the gift bothered her more than investing the extra time.

I watched all of this and didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I knew that it was this really great experience for her. A LEARNING experience, I think we call it. She was learning a lot, but one lesson in particular stood out to me. Sure, she was learning that it is important to be careful and take your time with a project.

What is that old saying? “Haste makes waste”?

Yes, that is all good. I am glad she was learning that. I still need to learn that lesson. She and I have sooooo much in common here. We both fling ourselves into things. We are ALL IN. ALL the time. And, sometimes there is haste that makes waste. So that saying up above hits a nerve with me.

So, yes that is all fine and good and needed, but, what I was way more interested in here was another lesson that she…and I…need to learn.

The courage to start again.

I came across this scripture last week and I love it so much.

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

Jeremiah 18:3-4

The Message version says it like this:

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

We don’t like starting over. Scripture seems to show us over and over that God doesn’t seem to mind, even if at times it is hard for Him to watch. He is, after all, the One who makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5) and when we are in Him we are a NEW creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)…perhaps over and over and over again.

Us? We don’t like it. Starting over is painful. It requires some very hard things.

Starting over requires us to slow down. To surmise the situation.


It requires a certain humility.

Humility…humus…the root word of earth, clay…

To be clay in His hands…to be continually made new…to be willing to start over…requires humility.

Humility is a wonderful word that means neither shame nor pride in oneself. It simply means being honest about who you are…or, rather, WHOSE you are.

Life is a continual journey with places where we stop and start again.

I am praying for the courage, where and when needed, at any point on any task, big or small, to go slowly, to surmise the situation, to be honest…to be humble.

Life…GOD…asks this starting over business of us over and over again. If we don’t respond we are in grave danger of getting stuck. We get stuck in the shame of what caused us to NEED to start over, looking back wistfully and painfully, and we are too full of pride to be honest and move forward.

My grandmother tried to teach me to crochet when I was a little girl. The key word there is TRIED. I never could stick with it. Looking back I know why. It was so unbelievably difficult for me when she would point out a mistake and would ask me to unravel my work. She would explain that if I didn’t fix it now that in the end I would regret it. It was so devastating for me that I would just stop practicing and eventually stop asking for her help. I regret that.

Perfectionism never gets us very far. Perfectionists often either don’t start in the first place because then they are never in danger of failing (or having to start again). Or, perfectionists quit before they have to face any threat of failure.

Here is what I think is true. God is Holy, but He is not a perfectionist. He has no trouble…”whenever the pot… turn[s] out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, [with] simply start[ing] over and use the same clay to make another pot.”