Over our dinner of smoked brisket and collard greens, Faith turns to me with eyes smiling and says,
“Hey mama, tell us about the time when you actually. fell. for daddy.”
I swallow my bite of bacon-flavored collards and reply, “Oh, you mean the story of our first date?”
She exuberantly shakes her head and her hair bounces, “Yes, that’s it!”
I smile remembering this story of a favorite new beginning. Somehow I managed to catch the eye of a super good-lookin’ boy across the college campus, and now he stood at the bottom of my dorm’s front steps to pick me up for our first real date. He looked relaxed and cool leaning against the banister in his Levis and a t-shirt for a band I’d never heard (Rush). In an effort to return the same breezy vibe, I started down the steps with my eyes trained on his chocolate eyes rather than where I stepped.
And that’s when my foot slipped and I fell down, down, down the stairs in the most awkward tumble imaginable, lanky arms and legs in four different directions. After what seemed like an eternity, I mercifully stopped at the bottom, limbs in a splayed-out star pattern at the feet of Chocolate Eyes.
When I finish recounting this to the dinner crowd, Faith asks between giggles,
“So what did you DO then?”
I look at her grinning dad and answer, “Well, I looked up the stairs and thought about high-tailing it back to my dorm room. My tomato red face and I were horribly embarrassed. But then I looked toward your handsome dad and realized that would mean missing out on my date with him, so I just laughed it off. Your dad, being a gent and all, gave me a fresh start of sorts by offering his hand to help me up.”
I slide the last bite of pork around the barbecue sauce and add, “Yeah, it wasn’t how I meant to kick off our date…”
And Ethan finishes, “…but it makes for a great story!”
I nod in agreement while removing my plate from the table. The troupe follows suit and as dinner dishes clank in the sink, thoughts clank in my head about the different new beginnings our family has experienced. Sometimes a new beginning soars on wings of glorious success. Sometimes it takes off and crashes, leaving you flat out laid out. And when that happens, I want to tear out of there and scurry my red-faced self off to safety rather than shake the embarrassment off my skin and out of my hair.
Tearing away tempts, but trying again trusts.
I try again because I’m already hidden in Christ, so there’s no need to hide anywhere else.
I try again because God is the generous giver of fresh starts, and grabbing one means I accept that my rocky start is a bump in the story, not the end of it.
Trying again is knowing hope always moves toward the surface, anxious to comfort and hold you.
So, for all those facing a new beginning this season – especially those whose new beginning took a tumble - I offer you this prayer from God’s heart to your own. May it remind you that even the most fledgling of starts can turn into your favorite stories.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I stepped out to make a place for myself, and I tripped up rather than took off. I feel embarrassed, nervous, worn out and just plain tried out. I know You understand, and because of You, this stumbling block to my new beginning is only a part of my story rather than the end of it.
Where would any of us be without Your daily (hourly?) offerings of fresh starts? A splayed-out mess at the bottom of the stairs, that’s where. Thank You for giving me a fresh start right here, right now. Thank You for showing me that walking in Your will is walking in success. Thank You for giving me a sure identity in You, not in outcomes.
When I contemplate retreating, let me retreat in Your love. When I think about running, let me run confidently forward in the abundant gifts You’ve tailor-made specifically for me. Give me the ability to see how my decisions today affect the story of my future. When I flip through the memory books of my life, may I see plenty evidence of taking Your hand and walking courageously in Your plans for me. Along the way, may I learn the art of taking myself less seriously. And thank You that no matter if I fly or fall, You make every story good.
And You end every story well.
In the name of Jesus, the One Who is head over heels in love with me,
By Kristen Strong of Chasing Blue Skies