I have a compulsion to start projects over. The reason is my deep-seated desire for perfection. If I start something and don’t get it exactly right I want to scrap the project and begin again. For example, I was cutting some trim for a window over the weekend. I measured twice and cut once. Unfortunately, the cut caused some splintering in the wood. It was a very small crack. In fact, the average person would not even have noticed it unless they pulled out a magnifying glass. No problem, right. I mean who walks around with a magnifying glass in their pocket. Most people would probably go ahead and put the trim up. No one would notice. Except that I would notice. So, I pulled out another piece of wood and cut again. Fortunately, this piece came out perfectly. It could easily have become an expensive project.
This is a small example. However, it is honestly part of my makeup. I strive for perfection in little things. My sermon should be prepared to perfection. I desire to go through the day without any hiccups. Relationships including my own should be peaceful and tidy. And there have been many a project where I look at the mistakes rather than the completed task. I have high expectations for myself and quite honestly for others around me. The problem is that I am not perfect. In fact, each of the areas is fraught with daily bumps and stumbles. There is no perfect sermon. I misstate something or forget a point. Or, my perfectly planned day becomes filled with interruptions. It takes longer to do something. I second-guess counsel given to someone. And relationships are not always of the tranquil, love-hug, variety. Disagreements occur. Emotions are hot. I became irritated over something that normally would not bother me. When these days occur, I look forward to going to sleep and waking up refreshed. Tomorrow I can get it right. Yet, it doesn’t occur. And even if I did have a very good day (honestly a perfect day is impossible), the previous days spill over. There are memories of imperfection. There is the spillover from a strained relationship. Guilt emerges over something that happened a week ago. In this sense, there is no true new beginning as we carry things forward whether good or bad – memories, pain, and guilt. Yet, we still try to do so. We say, “Let’s forget 2014 and enjoy a brand new year!” It is impossible as we are connected to the past as we move into the future.
You might be thinking, “How depressing.” Now, I don’t want to be a downer. I am simply trying to be realistic about life and honest about myself. Yet, as I think about my own inability to truly enjoy a new beginning, I can’t help but give thanks to God. Unlike us, He is capable of new beginnings especially with us.
Hebrews 8:12 states, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” How is that possible? I can completely understand the first part of the verse. People have wronged me. I can forgive them. However, the second part is something difficult to relate to. Even if I forgive, I can’t forget. It is humanly impossible. It might fade from our memories but do we truly forget when we have been hurt or harmed. Yet, God can do so. He can grant a new beginning towards that failure. When God forgives He says it is gone from His memory. With God, we enjoy a brand new start when we confess to Him. This is absolutely amazing and liberating. While we cannot truly enjoy a brand new start with life and people around me, we can with God! When we come to Him, we get a fresh start. Wow! As I think about all God’s unique qualities this is one that is very precious. God uniquely has the ability to forget our stumbles. Therefore, he holds no bitterness towards our offenses. He doesn’t look at us distrustfully because we have failed in the past. God’s grace doesn’t run out because “burned me twice, shame on me.” He doesn’t set up boundaries with us because of ongoing hurt. Unlike us, God is not plagued by any of these things because He can forget. He wipes the slate clean. He says ‘Yesterday is gone. Today is a new beginning.’ Oh, we can be so thankful for God’s short memory! It is overwhelming. It is freeing. And it is inviting. Regardless of how today turned out, tomorrow we can look forward to a new beginning!