I find it hard to give myself credit when credit is due, but here’s one thing I’ll readily acknowledge: I’m very good at quitting. Take jobs, for instance… I’ve left at least 17 jobs over the course of my adult life (that I can remember), and I only recall being sad to leave one of them: I was a new teacher at a wonderful school with students who enjoyed learning and a principal who really was my pal, so yeah… that’s a story for another day, but other than that one time, I have never had any qualms about quitting.
Starting over is quitting’s best friend. You don’t see one without the other, so I guess you could say I’m pretty fond of new beginnings as well. There’s really nothing quite like a clean slate. New work, new people, new place, new desk to obsess about where all my personal tchotchkes will go. I think that’s one reason I like academic environments so much and am a perpetual student. I get the thrill of starting over every few months (with a brand new notebook and pen). It’s exhilarating!
I’d never given much thought to my love of starting over until I read a quote from author Annie Downs. In 100 Days to Brave, she says, “We have to be brave enough to hold on even when our struggles feel like more than our hands can handle…hold on until the Lord makes it really clear that you’re supposed to let go.” Sure, it takes bravery to leave a familiar place and head for a new one, but staying requires us to be brave enough to believe in the here and now, invest in deep-running relationships, and work through the muck and mire to create something bright and new right where we are.
And that’s when it occurred to me that if I’m honest with myself, all those job changes weren’t so much about the excitement of starting over as they were about me running away from conflict, failure, and problems both large and small. Quitting wasn’t an act of bravery. It was an act of cowardice. And a few of those times were acts of rebellion against God because I was too afraid to hold on. I was too afraid to ask God if I should hold on.
Think about it. Where in your life have you convinced yourself that quitting and starting over is the smartest thing to do, when what you’re really doing is running away because quitting feels easier? Was it when you decided to leave your job? Your church? Your spouse? How many times have you decided on your own to cut your losses and quit, and then shamelessly asked God to help you carry out your plan instead of asking him to show you his?
Lord, thank you for your never-ending mercy and for loving us even when we thoughtlessly set you to the side. Give us your wisdom in discerning the right time to go and the right time to stay, and stand with us as we bravely face our trials. Amen.