When You Need to Begin Again

If ever a person knew the desire, the pull, the need to start over, it was Leeana Tankersley. Thrust into the unexpected, she learned to rely on the unbelievable—to walk in new faith, even in the dark. With a prophet’s wisdom and a poet’s voice, she invites us to join her on the journey of beginning again, once more, each new day. It’s a deep pleasure to have her join us on the farm today . . .

guest post by Leeana Tankersley

“New life starts in the dark. Whether it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, new life starts in the dark.” ~Barbara Brown Taylor

Sometimes life is going along, and out of pretty much nowhere, the most impossible thing happens.

An accident. A diagnosis. A failure. A loss. A heartbreak.

Some of you are living this right now.

As you are reading, unspeakable things are happening around you, and you don’t really know how you will progress down a path that has completely disappeared on you.

Two years ago, I went through the loss of my marriage. Life was happening—not perfectly, not without struggle—but it was happening. And then it all crashed. Without too much warning and with no easing in. Which is how the Hard thing happens usually. Wham.

We quickly see that we can’t fix everything in life, we can’t actually control another person, and that even faithful people will go through the wilderness, even faithful people will have to surrender the most precious things.

This is incredibly disorienting.

So many days I just wanted to be on the other side, whatever that meant.

I wanted to be anywhere but where I had to stand. I wanted another story. I wanted a very clear set of directions for moving on.

You too?

Did the path you thought you were walking vanish unexpectedly?

Did everything you were counting on change?

Did the horizon shift before your very eyes?

Did a certain haze settle over everything you once saw clearly?

Ten years ago, I read four simple words from the ancient monk, St. Benedict: “Always we begin again.”

This idea—that there is always a hand reaching toward us, there is always grace available, and there is always a chance to begin again—has saved me a thousand times.

A simple line became a lifeline.

The etymology of the word begin says it means “to open” or “to open up.” In order to begin, we must open ourselves up, often in the various places where we would prefer to remain shut.

It’s vulnerable to open up, to trust again, to pray again, to struggle again, to surrender again.

It’s so hard to open our hands in the midst of loss. It’s hard to take the very next step in the darkness when what we’d prefer is a well-lit runway.

All of that to say, it’s hard to begin again . . . with God, with ourselves, with others.

But, and I am telling you this from experience, it’s the only way to live.

Opening our hands. Opening our hearts. Opening our lives. Opening our minds. Opening our doors. Again. And again. Letting love find us. Letting grace in.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV)

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.

We are not consumed by our circumstances. We are not consumed by rejection. We are not consumed by cancer or divorce or infertility or trauma or abuse or anxiety or fear or even death. Because of His great love, we are not consumed.

We open our hands. We offer him the entire portion of Hard. Every last bit of it. Our anger, too? Yes, even our anger.

We say, “Here it is. All of it. It’s a horrible mess. I cannot do anything here that will make this better. So I’m opening up my hands and I’m giving you the whole tangle.”

And then we do it again. And again. And again.

A few times every hour, if needed. After all, His mercies are new, His compassions never fail. We choose to open our hands when what we’d rather do is clamp shut, protect, defend. We offer instead of hide.

This is the only way I know to make the journey.

I go to a church in an old brick building that sits on a wide avenue in what used to be the heart of town. Every Sunday, I look at the stained glass that rises above the pastor at the front center of the sanctuary.

Rendered in the glass is a person on a precipice looking over a valley. She has her hand up above her eyes as if she’s straining to see, trying to make out what’s there on the horizon. But—and this part gets me every single Sunday—she is not alone. Beside her is a majestic angel, holding her closely as she struggles to see, his wings surrounding her.

When I get very quiet and very still, I hear these words: Leeana, you are held. It is all held. You are not lost. You are not broken. You are not disqualified. You are not sidelined. You are not silenced. You are not swallowed whole.

You are held. Benevolently. Faithfully. Held.

There is always a hand reaching toward you.

There is always grace available.

And there is always a chance to begin again.

 

Leeana Tankersley is a writer, mom, storyteller, podcaster, and writing teacher. She is the author of five books, including her newest, Always We Begin Again: Stepping into the Next, New Moment, a devotional with 100 readings and reflection prompts.

Leeana has good news if you’re struggling: each new day is an opportunity to begin again. In her warm tone and with her signature humor she encourages and motivates you to begin again in your relationships with God, your family, your friends, and yourself.

Because there is always a hand reaching toward you, there is always grace available, and there is always a chance to begin again.

[Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]