January 2018 - Starting Over

Starting Over


Have you ever fantasised (and don't read too much into the thoughts of the writer) about starting all over again? Literally, reinventing yourself and leaving your past behind? Like entering into your own witness protection scheme – new identity, new home, new job, new everything.

I remember a moment, about twenty years ago, when I was just about to leave the religious community of which I was a member, looking for a flat, a job and a new life. Just at that moment an old friend rang me up saying something like, 'do you have plans for Friday?' And I distinctly remember replying, 'I have absolutely no plans for the rest of my life'. If I'd even owned a diary, it would have been completely empty from that point on.

What did that feel like? Terrifying, bewildering and liberating, possibly in equal measure. It was like the reverse of leaving everything behind in the first place in order to take the habit. Something dies and another thing is born.

A story I heard years ago was of a man, possibly in his early thirties, who was moving house with the help of his friends. They packed everything into a self-drive van and headed off to his new home. Knowing they had time to spare, they retired for some well-earned liquid refreshment. After an hour or two in the pub they emerged to continue their journey, only to discover that the van had been stolen. Never recovered, the man had lost everything. His devastation, though deep, was only brief. Quickly, he realised that the burden of belongings that he could never quite have the heart to part with was now gone. Like a ship when the barnacles have been scraped off, he was clean and fresh and new.

We might not have the courage to start afresh too many times, but the new year always brings that sense of new beginnings. Achievements reflected upon, ambitions named, hopes claimed and dreams declared. However joyful is your seeing-in of the new year, I hope that joy continues until the end. But I also hope that you can claim a new beginning for yourself, wiping the slate clean and starting your year fresh and hopeful. Perhaps this will mean losing some of your baggage, perhaps it will mean ambitious plans. But wherever it takes you, I wish you peace.

I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O'Donohue

Nick Bird

your Rector