Saturday, February 7, 2009

There is No Starting Over

As a kid I hated messing up. Whether I'd neglected my chores or broken a rule, or skipped Bible study, I agonized about getting in trouble in our fundamentalist Christian home. In my mind, I had to start over. I was forever starting over.

My Dad said, "Why do you always think you have to start over?" But I was convinced I needed a new day, a new week, a new arrangement of bedroom furniture, a new outfit. Anything to help me in my new start.

This kind of thinking was perpetuated by church culture, wherein we were taught that being "born again" was all about a new start. Here I was, born again, but it wasn't enough. I needed more new starts. (Nevermind the fact I was only 13, or 16 or 18.) Every altar call, crusade, church camp experience, New Year's service - these were all new starts that I depended upon desperately.

These new starts were always tenuous, temporary and shaky, but I couldn't help trying.

The fixation with starting over is not just in the church, but has saturated our society. I love how it was expressed in a terrific play I saw some time ago, How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found, brilliantly performed by Portland Center Stage.

Charlie is an advertising executive with a stressed-out psyche, a maxed-out credit card, and an empty life. He encounters a fraud artist who can help him create a new identity with all the necessary identifiers, licenses, passports. Charlie becomes convinced that leaving Charlie behind - in essence, disappearing - is the answer to everything.

As humans, we're convinced that starting over means changing our identity, and it's the answer to the pain we experience in life. If we can just be somebody else, get a new "us," life will be better.

It's so hard for us to see God in the life we already have - that He meets us right where we are, as who we are, with all the shit we experience. But this is what real life is. Anything else is just trying to disappear.


Anonymous said...

So true! We might be able to escape to a new place or even change identities but that saying "wherever you go, there you are" says it all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Theresa said...

I would never want to truly start all over..for heavens sake, it has taken so much time to get here and I know that God loves me even if at times at don't love myself. I am not the disappearing type as you know.