Suppose someone walked up to you and gave you an all-expense-paid two week vacation to someplace wonderful....like historic Jamestown, Virginia. Or a cabin in the Appalachians, or....Disney World! (This is my fantasy, substitute your own!) Anyway, suppose the only catch is that you have to drive there. No planes. (Yes, no planes. Just go with it.)
What would you do to get ready? Well, if it were me, I'd plan what I was going to wear. I'd bring along a swimsuit, a sweater, shorts and pants, plan for sun or rain. I'd run down the checklist of what everyone in the family needs. The car would be taken for a tuneup before weighing it down with snacks, directions would be stuffed in the glove box. I'd reserve a hotel room. We'd make sure to have some cash on hand for emergencies, and our cell phones charged.
Then we'd leave.
Two hours into the trip, we might have a flat tire. We'd change it and continue on.
Four hours in, I could develop a splitting headache. I'd take some medicine, rest for a bit, and move forward.
Seven hours in, the hotel we'd plan to stay at may somehow lose our reservation, and could have no vacancy. We could drive another hour before finding a hotel with a room. It might be old, the beds creaky. We may not get restful sleep.
The next morning, we go on. And in spite of whatever happens, (I'd rent a car if I had to!) we'd get there eventually. The destination is everything we've dreamed, and the journey's difficulties fade, because being there is so worth it. Tensions melt away as we relax in the crisp, mountain air; human sponges soaking up the bliss of freedom from daily cares. Or perhaps instead, screaming our frustrations away on Space Mountain.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "starting over". When we hit a hiccup on a weight-loss routine, we start over. When we miss a day of controlling our temper, we start over. Maybe when a new week starts, we recommit to having the dishes done every night before bed. Recommitting is good. Starting over is necessary for growth and change; having goals keeps life fresh. After all, who doesn't need a new start now and then?
But... my pondering keeps coming back to the need for acceptance of my own situation, the importance of my mindset. Instead of mentally addressing the feeling as starting over, I'm replacing it with continuing on.
Take my weight loss and getting healthy from diabetes, for example. I've committed to doing this for myself. I've gotten everything ready I can think of; I'm doing my best to enjoy the journey. I'm very much looking forward to the destination. Yet, I get flat tires. I've had headaches. The hotel is full; my night not restful. Previously I would let those things make me feel like a failure, I would start over and over again. Doing that has been mentally and emotionally exhausting.
With this new mindset, I can't start over because I've already begun. It actually feels really good, and I'm traveling by stops and starts--but by golly, I'm traveling. All I can do is to learn from the bad or just accept it for what it is, and move forward. Flat tires happen. How would beating myself up for running over that nail help? Once I backed over a small tree branch I knew was in my driveway. It punctured a tire. Berating myself constantly wouldn't have fixed it. Stupid decision to run over the blasted thing? Yes. We replaced the tire and moved on. You can bet I haven't driven over any branches since. Curbs? We won't talk about that right now.
I've decided to accept my failures for what they are--bumps in the road. Invitations to pause, reflect, learn, forgive myself, then continue on. Not "begin again", but to keep on driving down the road towards Jamestown. For that's what this life is, a continual adventure. We begin it at birth, and the views on our journey constantly change; the direction of our path will take us to twists, detours, and entirely new roads. But unlike at the end of a vacation, we don't turn around to go home; we move forward to a new and better place as wiser and stronger people. We continue the journey, and give encouragement to those who are traveling where we have been. We give support and love to those sharing our current highway.
At times I will find myself by the side of the road more than other times. I have to accept that life will never be without challenges, especially for the things I want most. However, if I prepare the best I can, with the Lord's help I will be given the strength to continue on.
I'll send you a postcard from Orlando.