Dying while wishing for a chance to start over has to be the most painful way to go. I know this because I’ve seen it. It is one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to witness. My daddy had aggressive, metastatic prostate cancer that spread to his spine, among other places, causing him great pain. One day, as he was waiting to be released from the cardiac ICU, in my typical “foot-in mouth manner,” I made a comment about dying. My daddy asked me, “Do you think that’s what’s happening here?”
I looked at him, unable to form a response. He looked tired, sick. He not only had cancer, but also only about 25% of his heart function, and an abdominal aneurysm. He was wishing for his do-over—I could tell. He wished he had taken better care of his body, gone to the doctor sooner and more often. I believe he wished he had put less faith in doctors and more in the one true healer, but that could’ve been just my wish instead.
As cliché as it sounds, life does offer many chances with broken relationships, with life choices, with health, and most importantly— infinite chances to start over with your relationship with God. Because we have a God who can heal all things, who can use all the good and the bad for His purpose, we have a God who specializes in start-overs. But my daddy wasn’t going to have time to start over on his health. This was the painful reality we were faced with as I tried to think of what to say in response to his question about facing his own mortality.
I sat next to him on the hospital bed. “No, Daddy. I think you still have some time left, but I think you have to want it, more than you have ever wanted anything. You have to fight for it, really fight for it; really want it.” That was all I could say. I wasn’t even sure if it made sense or if it was theologically sound. He wanted to go back in time, and I was unable to figure out how to respond properly.
I knew in my heart, at that moment, it was too late for him to make a physical change. Less than a month later, he was gone. The truth is: It’s always too late for a do-over. The past is done. My daddy’s personal window of opportunity for improving his health had passed, but I was scared and in denial. I wasn’t ready for him to give up fighting. The good news is: It’s never too late to start over on what’s most important. Today is what matters. Make the apology. Mend the fence. Reach out. Pray. Forgive. Start. Even though no one can do their lives over again, we can all start anew mentally and spiritually anytime.
One of the core values at my church is “We give up things we love for things we love even more.” I have a modified version of this as one of my personal mantras, for lack of a better term. The core value goes on to say, “It’s an honor to sacrifice for Christ and His Church.” The more I thought about my words to my daddy: “You have to want it more than anything …” the more I realized there was truth to that. Make it your priority to start over. Don’t be afraid to give something up when you know God is asking you to. Desire change because it’s an honor to sacrifice your habits so that Christ can win in your life. Desire it more than being stuck. You’ll need a fire inside you to push yourself toward making a fresh start.
Where do you start when you want to start over?
You’re going to need to start with letting go. Realize that whatever happened to make you want a redo has passed. Let go of shame that makes you feel stuck when you remember your past mistakes. Realize that with God’s help, every moment can be a new start.
Then, you need to think it through. Think about your do-over wish. What do you want to be better about your life? Write it down. Do you want it more than anything? Don’t find yourself clinging to hope with one hand and grasping for your “do-over” with the other.
Where do you go from there?
You’ve thought. You’ve written down what you need to change. Now, it’s time to choose one small step. Resist the temptation to figure out the entire plan from A-Z. There is no way you’ll guess it all correctly, anyway. Many years ago, my pastor, Craig Groeschel, did a New Year’s message called One Thing, in which he spoke about the power of changing just one thing at a time. This is a great place to begin when you’re ready to start over. Want to change jobs? Start by looking at your outdated resume. Want to work on your health? Start by cutting out one thing you know is harming you (even if you can only cut it out once per day, that’s a great start). Want to mend a complicated relationship? Start by making the first step: a phone call, a text. Want a relationship with God? Start by praying and talking directly to God. You don’t have to be good at it—you just have to do it.
Starting over doesn’t have to be a big, huge, complicated step. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Starting somewhere is as good as starting anywhere, and any day is as good as today. Every day is another chance to turn it all around. You are capable of having a good life, a godly life you want more than anything. Pray about it. Talk to God about it. Even if you don’t believe it yet, talk to God about it. He will still listen. Start over.