Jennifer Slattery Christian Blog and Commentary

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Grace Promises We Can Always Begin Again

If only life allowed do-overs! And yet, because of grace, it does.

At a midweek prayer service years ago, I heard sniffling behind me. I turned to find a woman crying, and soon asked her why. Turned out, her son was in his senior year and she desperately wanted a do-over. Between the hustle and bustle of life, she’d let “family time” slip, and nearly lost him in the process. We prayed, hugged, and cried together, then she left, determined to start fresh—to do whatever it took to win her son’s heart back.

About six months later, she returned and once again sat in the pew behind us. After service, I asked her how she was doing, and more importantly, how things were with her son. She smiled and launched into a story of sit-down dinners, one-on-one time with her son, and clearly defined boundaries.

She'd received her do-over.

Clearly she couldn't go back and undo the previous seventeen years, but by determining to start fresh, at that moment, she salvaged what was left of her son's last year at home and paved the way for years to come.

Her story reminds me of Ezra from the Old Testament. He and the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile. This wasn't an easy trip, and many stayed in Babylon. The journey to Jerusalem was costly, long, and dangerous, lasting for months. The people they encountered along the way were hostile, then when they got to Jerusalem, they found the city in ruins, and many of the people had intermarried with pagans. And yet, despite the arduous journey, the difficult task and the discouraging circumstances, God called them to persevere, and begin anew.

They were to rebuild the temple.

"And God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the Lord. And all the neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings." Ezra 1:5-6 (NLT)

So the rest was easy, right? God called,  provided, and everything else just fell into place?

Hardly. They experienced opposition and became discouraged. In modern terms, we'd say they hit one closed door after another.

Does opposition mean a closed door? Will change always come easily?

Like the story of the mother I shared with you, the Israelites were given a chance to start anew, but it wouldn't be easy. Not only did they face outer opposition, but I'm certain their hearts rebelled many times--fear, anger, bitterness, discouragement churned into a faith-sapping mess. In fact, opposition became so great, the building ceased for an entire year. Can you imagine what this must have felt like? They'd been freed from exile, likely resulting in a "mountain top experience," only to be beat down on a long, treacherous journey. Then, when exhausted and discouraged, they found their land filled with pagans.

But ... God showed up, their hope rekindled ... only to be dashed again. How many more trials could they face? At what point could they declair defeat and walk away?

Change never comes easy, and for me, stepping forward in faith can be a battle, one that requires diligence, prayer, and a steady dose of accountability. But regardless the opposition, regardless how difficult the journey, God calls us to keep on keeping on. And the beauty of the gospel is that each day, we have been given the opportunity to begin again.

You didn't like how you treated your husband the day before? So start fresh today.

Have years of arguing and eye-rolling caused a drift between you and your teen? Determine, today, to begin anew. It is never too late to make an about face.

All things are possible with God, and as we draw near to Him and meditate on His holy Word, He'll mold us into the people He wants us to be, day by day, mistake by mistake. Ours won't be a perfect journey. We'll likely fall enough times to become permanently bruised, but we'll never fall further than His hand. And each time He catches us, we'll learn something new about His love and grace. Each time I persevere, we'll learn something new about myself.

Let's talk about this! Is there an area you need to intentionally begin again with? How does grace encourage you to do so? Share your examples and stories in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another. 

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