By DANNY MINTON
You stare at the line with pen in hand. To sign it means freedom, yet at the same time, it brings thoughts of memories that once were a part of a happier life. Thoughts of flowers, fancy clothes, smiles, and looking toward a bright future seem like faded pictures of a life that once was so alive together. When you sign your name it will end a life, a future, and a dream that once was one to have together. “I do,” was meant to be forever, but now things have changed. You sign your name, and now you must start over.
Your eyes are clouded with mist as you move slowly down the road in the back seat of the car. You peer out the window hardly aware that the cars you pass are slowly pulling over to the side of the road. The sun is shining, but it’s the darkest day you’ve had to face in years. Life together has come to an end. The vacations, the good times, the bad times, the laughter, the tears, all the hours, days, and years you spent together will be no more. Your heart sinks as you lay your loved one to rest for eternity. Now, not because you choose, but because you must, you start over.
Everything is strange. You look out the car window, and you have no idea who those people are walking the street, mowing their lawns, and washing their car. They are all strangers, people you have never met, people who you don’t recognize, and don’t know if you like them or not. The town is different. It’s not like the home you left, the one that had been your life for twenty years. Where’s the store? Where’s the church? Where are the schools? How will the kids fit in with all the new acquaintances? You never planned to move, to be so far from your friends, but there was no choice. Now, in this strange town filled with unfamiliar faces, you find yourself having to start over.
You stand in your neighbor’s yard, barefoot, with a blanket wrapped around your shoulders to keep warm. You stare at your house, your home, your life as the fire grows almost out of control. Firemen are rushing around, trying their best to save it; however, nothing seems to be stopping the destruction of everything you own, everything you thought was so important. Tomorrow you will have nothing but your life and the clothes on your back. Tomorrow you will begin the process of starting over.
You walk into the office on Monday morning, and the atmosphere is weighed down by an air of depression. You see your co-workers gathered in corners, talking in low whispers. A receptionist is seen wiping tears from her eyes. In an instant, you find out the firm is closing. Tomorrow you will not have a job. There will be no more paychecks, no more insurance, and no more benefits. Tomorrow, after a lifetime of working the same job, you will be forced to look for something else to pay the bills and feed your family. You will be forced to start over.
There are times when starting over is something we look forward to doing. Being able to get a new breath of life, face new challenges, and follow unfulfilled dreams can be exciting. Moving away from past problems and starting anew can give us new hope as we start a new phase of life.
However, there are many instances in our lives where we are unexpectedly forced to start over. It is in these times that people experience a myriad of emotions. One of the first is depression and a feeling of being lost. What do I do now? Where do I turn? How do I keep moving ahead? Our heads fill with questions like these as we face an unclear future ahead of us. Anger, disappointment, sadness, and other feelings creep into our days as we have found ourselves starting over, not because we wanted to but because we had no other choice.
We have a sense of loneliness that makes its way into our day. Does anyone really care about me? Do they understand what I’m going through at this time? Why is this happening to me? We sit in the dark, wake up in the wee hours of the morning, or cry ourselves to sleep, wondering how we are going to make it now that we have to start over.
The Bible is full of stories of people who have had to start over, not by choice, but because of life events. Abraham was told to pack up and move hundreds of miles away to a new place God had for him and his family to live. Moses was told to pack up thousands of people and move them to a different lifestyle, starting over in a new land. Job lost everything he had, family, friends, health, and possessions. Mary, Joseph, Naomi, Rahab, and men and women who accepted Christ had to move and start over. And of course, Saul, a man who persecuted Christians, had to start over in his life by convincing others he was a changed man.
Each time we have to start over, it can get us down if we don’t stop and remember that we are never alone. God is always with us, helping us in every life journey. David reminds us that God is always mindful of our situation, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3 (NIV2011) He reminds again, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV2011)
Starting over can be tough when it comes unexpectedly. It can drag us down spiritually and emotionally, yet God reminds us not to let that happen. He constantly tells us he is with us every moment of our life. One of the ways in which God shows he is near is not only through his Word, but through our church families. No matter where you live, where you go, in any place those in the Kingdom of God can find people who care in the community of the church. A lady once commented to me after we had gone through her husband’s death, “I don’t know how people make it without a church family!”
Whenever you find yourself having to start over in life, never forget that there is always God and the church to help you make it through. Starting over may not always be easy, but it never has to be done alone.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.