A fresh start

MJS AP Etch A Sketch Again

I don’t cry at movies … or really under any other circumstances. I doubt it’s a physiological or even psychological impediment (I guess those are in the eye of the beholder haha), I suspect it’s just that I have the ability to absorb that what I’m watching is not real and hence it doesn’t impact me. I’m not sure. However … one movie that ALWAYS makes me gulp back tears is “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). If you’ve never watched it, ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? If you haven’t, then frankly stop reading this and get it on Netflix, Amazon, RedBox, whatever.   I’ll wait …

Okay, now that you’ve watched it … what always kills me is the last portion of the movie, where George realizes despite the depths of despair his circumstances were in presently, that there was a fresh start he could experience. But it couldn’t come without first going through pain, helplessness, rejection, fear, and hopelessness. By an answer to prayer, God shows him things he otherwise couldn’t have seen, allowing George to realize that his plight could lead to a renewed view on all that had happened and all that could happen in the future. Then, as he watches the provision come through to save his family, life, and business – shaken violently though he was – he knows through the shaking came the fresh start.

Sort of like an Etch A Sketch. For those of you too young or too deprived as a child, the Etch A Sketch was launched in July 1960 after being invented in France in the 1950s. A plotting / drawing toy, it was operated by two knobs that moved a stylus and displaced aluminum powder on the back of the screen, which created lines on the screen that you could use to make all sorts of drawings. Then, if you desired a new drawing, perhaps something of an improvement, it could be erased and a new drawing created. To do that, you had to shake the Etch A Sketch vigorously, and a clean screen would appear. A fresh start, of sorts. If you didn’t shake it, of course, you would never get the screen to be blank to start a new picture.

As I neared the finish of my New Testament reading plan for 2015 this past week, and as the end of 2015 closes in and ushers in the New Year of 2016, I was moved by this notion of a fresh start, especially as I reflect on the lives and situations of so many in my circles, and of course on fresh starts I’ve needed and had in my past.

Revelation 7:14b-17 (this week’s reading was from Revelation 4 – 17) says …

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation is an oft-misunderstood book. Some believe it’s because it’s filled with symbolism and figurative rather than literal language. Many differences of opinion emerge in terms of the time period over which the text presides … whether future, present or past. But more important in my view is that the book characterizes God’s judgment and His redemptive love. Both? Yup. Why? Because I think God wants to see that He is all about fresh starts.

As we read through Revelation, we read through seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls … all ways that God carries out His redemptive love to the creation He formed from the words of His mouth. All in an attempt to allow every last one of us to experience a final, lasting, eternal fresh start. But it comes as the echoes of the prayers of His people resound, and through the indescribable furor of judgments and torments the meanings of which have perplexed scholars and readers of Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible for millennia. In effect, God shows us that despite the fact that His creation had caused ruin and had corrupted the beauty of that which He laid in place … whether the physical, the spiritual, the individual, or whatever … God took great effort to provide a fresh start.

As I chewed on these facts this week, it told me that for us, this means regardless of where we are, what condition we’re in, how we’re feeling, we can choose prayerfully to rest on God’s deliverance … on the fresh start He offers.

In what area do you need a fresh start? Is it coming from a place of turmoil and struggle? It often does, but as we see through the example in Revelation as well as in the simplistic example through George Bailey and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we can be allowed a fresh start from the turmoil sometimes only by a fresh start through the turmoil. For me, there are places professionally, in ministry, and health-wise that I really need a fresh start. Fortunately, thus far, I’m realizing this before turmoil sets place, but that’s not always how it works.

How does fresh start come about? The same way as for George Bailey and in Revelation. It starts with prayer … prayer to our Father in heaven. He desires to bring us to new and better places, sometimes out of the difficulties and sometimes through them. Arguably, George Bailey would never have been able to clear the Etch A Sketch of his life without the immense shaking to which he was subjected. Clearly, God’s shaking of the entire earth and heavens was necessary to bring about His redemptive new creation – wherein we never again will thirst, hunger, or experience pain or suffering – but it was only through shaking the very foundations of the universe. But that came on the precipice of the prayers of His people.

In this way, it’s a choice. A choice to lay it before God. A choice to realize there’s a fresh start there. A choice to acknowledge that a fresh start means a change from our present. A choice to note that it may be from or through the challenges and a choice to accept either one. A choice to understand that a fresh start means our way isn’t working. A choice to take the shaking to clean the screen of our personal Etch A Sketch.

Is your life going through the shaking? Does it feel like things are falling apart? Maybe not in every aspect of life, but certainly in particular places? My prayer for you (actually, us) in 2016 is a fresh start in all things. Preferable without the vigorous shaking, but if necessary through it.

Soli Deo gloria!




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