Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Different Kind of New Beginning

"May you accept the past for what it is. May you celebrate what needs to be celebrated and grieve what needs to be grieved. And then, may you receive from God a new Spirit, one for Here - Now - Today."

-Rob Bell

For those of you that know me, I am a big fan of new beginnings. I've spent all year discovering and rediscovering their beauty. I haven't written since May 26th, and believe me when I say that more has happened than could fit in the space that Gmail provides for its millions of users.

But today was different. Something I couldn't pass up the opportunity to write about.

I sit here, sweaty, hair a mess, smelling like CLR (yes, the cleaner. "Just CLR it!")

Today is a Tuesday, not a Monday, which we often associate with a new week - or beginning. It is not November 1st, which I would have already proclaimed that it is a new month somewhere on my Facebook. It is not the beginning of a new season, we are in the middle of Fall - and a beautiful one at that.

So what is it?

Today, for whatever reason, I decided it was time to scrub my bathtub. Not just give it a quick spray and rinse. I'm talking deep clean. This is all compounded by so many other things happening, but today was the day.

But, why is this significant?

My whole life, I have associated rain and water with being washed clean. But my tub was anything but "clean." (You can run for the hills if it really bothers you).

For those of you who know the story that unfolded this Spring, Summer and well into Fall, you know I've been holding onto a burden of guilt, pain, confusion, hurt, and doubt caused by someone I was close to here in Denver. Despite this, I've found so much joy, which is the thing that has been different about this year. I think I'm finally getting a small grasp on the verse that talks about finding joy in your trials. It's not easy. It is a choice. And it doesn't always feel better right away. But, through baby steps and a strong will to believe things will change, things do change.

Sometimes I wonder why I complain about anything. I have a job that pays my bills, I have a family that loves me unconditionally, I have a roof over my head and a warm bed. I have friends that make every aspect of life - good and bad - worth living through. I live in the most beautiful state in the country. And I'm healthy. When was the last time we stopped to be grateful for that?

I went to church on Sunday night for the first time in months. Months. Might as well have been years since I've been so disconnected. The most amazing thing about this fact is that God has never once stopped pursuing me. And more often than not, I am listening. No matter where we end up, God is always there, whether we believe it or feel it or not.

On Sunday, a man named Peter spoke to us about the trials that his father faced growing up in Russia and fleeing to China as a little boy. His father was beaten as a child, deprived of food, saw both of his parents buried in the same hole before age 5. At age 16, he stood blindfolded in front of a firing squad because he refused to stand on the front lines with a weapon and shoot at people. And yet, God was faithful to direct and orchestrate a story that continued to lead him down the straight and narrow. A journey that was heavy laden with pain, is a journey that has changed lives and turned hearts toward the Creator.

And isn't it about the journey and not the destination anyway?

My shower has been a vehicle for cleanliness on the outside. But what about what is left behind? The reason we clean is to make new, start fresh, and be able to present something worth showing.

I was scrubbing my tub until I was covered in sweat, my hair falling out of its ponytail, remembering all of the things I have washed away in this one small space. But I had let what was left behind remain.

Peter spoke about how he was a little child at age 7 listening to parts of his father's story each night before he went to sleep with his siblings surrounding him. He would get mad when his father would speak of being mistreated, sometimes being left for dead. Peter would ask, "Daddy, why didn't you get mad?!" His father would reply, "My son, I could not get mad, I had Jesus." Instead of planting seeds of bitterness, he would plant seeds of gratefulness in the hearts of the children listening to these stories of how he grew up.

I was almost done scrubbing the bathtub and heard God say, "You have labored enough my child."

But he wasn't talking about the scrubbing. He was talking about my burden. He was telling me to stop doing it on my own. To stop carrying something that is too heavy for just me. To stop allowing what is left behind to build until it breaks me. He was asking me to give it to Him.

The problem with our human nature is that we actually try too hard. We think we can do things on our own until our exhaustion from doing so prevents us from functioning at even a fraction of our best.

As the water swirled around the tub in the final moments I was cleaning, I let the water rush to the drain to take with it everything I had left to hold onto from my burden. Although it has been a journey to this point, and I'm sure my human mind will not completely forget about what happened this year quite yet, I know that I have released that person to the loving Hands of God. And I wish him well.

And in the letting go, we find a different kind of new beginning. One that is not marked by the start of something, but that which is marked by the end of another.