The Courage to Start Again?
There are many truisms in life, one that I like, often quote and constantly reminds my young minions in my regular power talk is “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Which really means no matter how hard we try no human being have that power or capability to go back to the beginning and make a new start. When we face certain experience or our present circumstances are not what we envisioned we wish we had done it better, take a different road; say something different, we wish we had done that better; we want to start over again. But how many of us wish we could go back to the beginning and restart from scratch? However, we constantly look back, we are prone to do that, then more often than not, live in the past, our rear view mirror are clearer than out windscreen. Sometimes our windscreen is cloudy, foggy we cannot see to push ahead, though we are dying to. But though we want to move ahead, we cannot, we cannot see the way clearly, and we cannot clear the screen because our windscreen wipers are broken. What a predicament?
The biggest problem we have is not with looking back, we all do it, its in our make up and some things that happen to us never left us, they happen for a reason. Some of those experiences left an indelible mark on our consciousness; they are what shaped whom and what we are today. Finding those reason why certain things happens, takes a lifetime of struggles, trials and failures, before we can fully appreciate the past. Some of what we can say, “I am happy I went through that, it makes me a better person.” Some we wished we never encountered, “I have such bad memories because of that, I wish I never saw that, touch that, done that, experience that.” Again, that is OK, it is OK to look back, to return to where it all started, but our reflective mode and spirit should help us see clearer and make better decisions in present situations. Our decisions, chosen path should be about where we are going, not about where we are coming from. What we do now should be about where we are going, its about future reality. We must now focus on the ending, rather than the beginning. This is not about burning the bridges behind us, forgetting out past, it is about allowing what we gained from the past to shape and certify our future. We never forget many things that happens to us, some negative, some positive but we must courageously learn from those experiences, good and bad. This is the reason why the virtues or virtuous living are key to our present circumstances and continuous spiritual health.
Anyone can make a decision to make a new start, but it takes courage to act on it. The Apostle Peter encouraged the early saints, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge.” (2 Pet. 1: 3-5 NIV). Paul later encouraged the Philippians, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8). Virtue (Greek) implies “moral excellence” and “goodness.” It is defined by Professor Arthur Holmes, “A virtue is a right inner disposition, and a disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways. Disposition is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from a sudden impulse in being a settled habit of mind, an internalized and often reflective trait. Virtues are general character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct.” Proverbs 31, in describing a virtues woman, gives us a fitting example of true virtue in action.
We may try to envisaged, and by that even portray what it means to live a virtuous life, exemplifying the biblical virtuous woman is a start. What we learned then is a virtuous person has a predisposition, stemming from whom we are, our developed characteristics, shaped by those life experiences, to act in a certain way today and in the future. It could be about starting over, but it is not hasten by an affinity to the past or a thoughtless action, but by a settled mode of thinking and behaviour, that now becomes routine. This position satisfies and is stable, because it has a utility of producing sound decisions on reasons that creates external activities. American author Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” There is a very important point therein; we need the power of courage that prompts us to action, start a new thing, to start over again to change a situation for the better.
Virtues then are small seeds planted by the Holy Spirit, we learned and developed such behaviour with its prompting and guidance, and therefore have links to who we are in Christ. Peter encourages the early saints to make effort to practice good works; Paul encouraged thinking on the virtues, so that they become part of us. The virtues have links to our character, we need courage to practice them, as the world around us points the other way. Our experiences taught us to clear our windscreen, and be courageous in keeping it clear, because many curves and precipice are on the road ahead. Moses after getting the confirmation to leave Egypt, advised the Children to “March forward.” One can imagined the feelings of excitement, but fear was not far behind. Living in slavery left an indelible mark on their personhood, who to trust. They trusted Moses, and Pharaoh increased their punishment, they became despondent. Who can they trust again? Through great miracles and the demonstration of Almighty power Pharaoh relented. They marched out, guided by pillar of cloud during the day and fire by night. With the presence of God, they found new strength and their faith revived.
What is it that will restore out faith, give us courage to move forward? Whatever we do or say in life has consequences, most of our ends are determined at the beginning, but it does not have to, we can change. We can chart a new course, our experiences and present circumstances do not have to determine our future. However, we must be more courageously conscious about our future, about our ending more than we do our past. We need courage to make that move, to take that step and start over again!