A blogging friend of mine asked me this the other day. And so, of course, my brain began thinking of what that phrase actually means to me.
First I started thinking about what starting over means in general.
Why do we start over? Sometimes starting over is forced upon us and sometimes it’s not. I think a lot of times we find ourselves having to start over because of a certain loss in our lives such as a loss of a job, a divorce, a loss of a loved one. We have to essentially learn how to live and how to take that next step without something in our lives that used to be there. There’s a measure of starting over involved. We have to regroup and sometimes venture into unknown territory.
Other times we start over because we’ve finally hit the brick wall we’ve been traveling towards, or we’ve finally hit the bottom of the pit we’ve been journeying down. Or, we’ve fallen on our face so many times that we have no other choice but to start over and choose differently. We are forced to look beyond our comfort zone because our comfort zone is no longer comfortable. It’s only familiar… a familiar hell that we’ve adjusted to living in. It’s become our “normal” no matter how odd it might really be.
Let me take a moment right here, to I apologize for the length of this post. Portions of it I wrote years ago and decided to include it here because it has so much to do with my journey of starting over.
I started over about 11 years ago. After my mom died in 1991, I walked away from the Lord. I decided I was going to do it my way. For years, God attempted to get my attention, but I kept turning down the volume. I eventually married an unbeliever…believing that someday he would grow up or somehow I would change him. During this time, instead of running to the Lord, I ran to alcohol. It was my way of escaping. It was my way of numbing my mistakes and my failures. When I drank, I temporarily didn’t have to think about my bad choices. My marriage was full of deception and verbal and psychological abuse and ended after three long years.
After my first marriage ended, I was determined to make better, wiser choices. I knew that I needed to turn the volume back up on God’s voice in my life. I was so tired of falling on my face. I desperately needed to start listening to Him again. A new job relocated me to North Carolina. I was 2400 miles away from family. I didn’t know ANYONE in the area and I was in deep debt due to my bad choices and my ex-husband’s bad choices. I cashed in my retirement from my previous job just so I could get on my feet again. It was challenging to find a house that would rent to me and my two dogs…the only house I could find was 2500 square feet! I didn’t have furniture or money to buy furniture. I slept on the floor in the living room for the first five months until I finally bought myself a bed…a birthday gift to myself that year.
I found New Community Church shortly after moving here and decided that all that energy I had used to run from God I was now going to put into running to Him. I briefly became a small group junkie (attending 3 different ones throughout the week) and I also joined the women’s bible study. The bible study I joined was just starting a Beth Moore study called Breaking Free. It’s a study about breaking free from those strongholds in our life that separate us from God.
One thing I thought would happen after my marriage failed was that my drinking issue would go away. I mistakenly blamed my excessive drinking on my ex-husband. I even had close friends who encouraged this thinking, saying to me…if I was in your shoes I would drink too!
But, the drinking problem didn’t go away. I was still using it to escape. I was a functioning alcoholic. One Sunday night during the Breaking Free study at church, I confessed my problem with drinking to the other ladies in the group. I believe this was the start of addressing another area I was needing to start over in …learning to trust God with every area of my life…even the hidden sins that no one else knows about.
Even after this confession, I spent months having daily tug-of-war matches with God on the subject of drinking. I wanted to find a way to drink like a “normal” person…and practiced doing this EVERY night of my life with a bottle or two of wine! After failing over and over and waking up every morning full of shame and guilt, I finally came to terms with what God desired me to do. He wanted me to turn it over to Him completely. I remember arguing about this with God.
I feel like this was a huge turning point in my journey with the Lord. If I could encourage people of one thing, it would be to admit to God the sin you are struggling with even when you have absolutely no desire to change. It was at this crucial point when I was so tempted to turn the volume down and walk the other way that I needed to listen to God and cling to Him even tighter.
Our human tendency is to rebel and to do it our own way- so listening to God even when it hurts takes courage. I learned that the Lord can use even the smallest amount of willingness. And simply being willing to admit that I didn’t want to change, opened the door of communication with Him. I remember telling the Lord in a rather kicking and screaming way, “Okay, Lord, I have NO desire to stop drinking…and you know that. If you want me to stop drinking, then you are going to have to give me that desire. Lord, make my desire to not drink stronger than my desire to drink. Lord change my heart!”
I wish I could say that I gave my drinking issue over to the Lord right then, but it took another good month of praying for the desire to change and struggling on my own before it happened. I remember waking up one morning (November 27, 2001) another morning of coming to God full of guilt and shame. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to struggle anymore. Emotionally, physically or spiritually. I remember saying, “Lord, I give up. I am so tired.” An amazing thing happened. It was like the Lord responded, “Eileen, those were the words I was waiting to hear.” I remember experiencing the most amazing peace I had ever had.
That morning was different than all the other mornings. I had a strength inside of me and a calm inside of me that I had never known. It was like the Lord had reached down into the pit I had been trapped in for years and grabbed hold of my hand. This time I wasn’t going to let go. For the first time in the process, I was depending on His strength and not my own. He was fighting the battle for me. The months to come were by no means easy…but I had a BIG GOD fighting on my behalf.
I knew that I desperately needed to depend on Christ and to listen to Him on a daily basis, without Him…life was hopeless. I felt like I had been living Psalm 32 where David writes,”When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
At the beginning of this journey of starting over, I had a friend give me this key.
It’s the key of willingness. I think it is the most important thing we need to remember when we find ourselves in a position of having to start over. Willingness is the key. We need to be willing to listen to Him wholeheartedly. We need to commit to not turning down the volume on God. No matter how scary the journey of starting over might be, we need to take hold of His hand and trust Him!
To close, I wanted to share this familiar song. I woke up last night with these words on my heart.
Then sings my soul,
my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art!