I'm starting over.
But I'm starting over at thirty one with three kids. I'm starting over in the bedroom I spent my highschool years in, with my toddler snuggled up next to me at night. I'm starting over with a car that needs a new transmission, with karate for Judah twice a week, with a new love for Stroller Strides, with my favorite park just a short walk away. I'm starting over with old friendships healed and new friends bolstering me. I'm starting over with a new awareness of myself, my relationships and my broken, fragmented life. I'm starting over with the expectation that where strength grows there must be fertilizer. I'm accepting the shit that makes me bloom.
I guess when life comes to a head, when you know the only way out is through it, the only thing left to do is to live. There's no more room for striving, for fighting, for manipulating or denying. You just have to live it. You have to find a way to breathe. You have to get still, get healthy and get moving.
This is part of choosing to be kind to myself. I really have carried around an expectation that I BE something. Lord knows what I think I should be. It's pretty clear that I'm not the elusive something. I've been circling that drain as long as I can remember. Not today. Today is something new. Today I'm living, not striving. I'm making that ridiculous choice to be kind to who I AM.
And who I am is a great big mess. I'm waking up in the morning and telling myself that I can function today; I can get out of bed, make my kids breakfast, work out, edit photos, write this blog post, soak up some sunshine, eat enough food, cling to Jesus and NOT isolate myself from healthy, life giving people. Oh yes I can. I can and I will. Because this is kindness. This is what I need even if it isn't what I want. This is how we crawl out of pits, friends. This is how we trudge through the valley of the shadow of death instead of setting up camp in it. This is living. This is starting over.
I've been reading, teaching and sitting in Matthew 8 this week. I keep coming back to it. It keeps soaking into the edges of my thoughts. In a time when God is silent, this one story is blaringly constant. Have you read it? In the Message version it's this small moment when Jesus comes down off a mountain, the sound of the crowds still ringing in his ears. A leper approaches him - a diseased and abandoned man. He's already been rejected. He's already lost everything. He's utterly alone. But here he is, right in front of Jesus, and he says this: "If you want to you can heal me."
In my head, everything stops here. There is only silence as the weight of his real question hangs in the air. "Do you want to?" Oh, Jesus, do you want to? Am I worth healing? Do you even see how diseased I am? Do you know the great aching of my lonely life? Do you know how painful it is to suffer alone?
Here's the constant, unfailing, never-ending truth, friends. Jesus doesn't hesitate. He reaches out to touch the untouchable and he says this: "I want to. Be clean." Instantly the man is clean. Not eventually, not slowly, not falling over with shouts of "hallelujah". Just clean. Just healed. Just restored. Just renewed. And more than just his body, because this clean body means everything. It means he can re-enter his relationships, his life, his community. It means that he can live again.
I imagine that that re-entry is difficult. It's not easy to engage with people who have rejected and abandoned you. He certainly carried some bitterness, some resentment. His heart must have still been broken. That makes what comes next the most important part of the story. Jesus tells him to not talk about it. He tells him to quietly present himself to the priest along with the appropriate expression of thanks to God. Jesus says that this once-broken man's cleansed and grateful life, not his words, will be proof enough.
Squealing halt. Um. You want me to NOT talk about it? You want me to NOT prove my healing, my restoration, my social acceptance? You want me to just live? Just move forward without any justification or defense? You want me to live clean and grateful? You want me to get small, take the little way? Because part of me really wants to prove my healing. Part of me wants to make people see. Part of me wants them to feel ashamed for abandoning me when I was desperate and alone. Part of me wants to hit back.
But all of Jesus wants me to just live, just take the deep answer to my aching, once-broken question - "Do you want to?" - and LIVE. Live free, live kind, live grateful. And the fruit of that fully lived life will be proof enough.
So, as you live your life today, friends, live the little way. Ask that burning question. Know that Jesus' answer will always be, "Yes. I want to. Be clean." Live a quiet life that carries a vivid, powerful banner of freedom. Your healing does not depend on anyone else's acknowledgement of what has happened in and for you. Your healing is only about that moment when you stood in front of him, disfigured and dying; that moment when he reached out and touched your decaying skin; that moment when he said, "yes".
This is starting over.