01/03/2018

Magis Moments: Every day is a fresh start

The New Year is a time of fresh starts. Time to re-prioritize, set goals, kick bad habits, and start new healthy ones – at least for a few weeks before the resolutions fade into the background. We all need fresh starts now and again to help remind us of who we are and who we can be. My three-year-old, Ethan, knows this better than anyone. 

Ethan, like most three-year-olds, has a disposition that changes in the blink of an eye. He can be the sweetest, most loving and kind boy one minute, and then turn into a screaming, tantruming threenager the next. Luckily, his amazing teachers at Loyola’s Whelan Children’s Center helped me find a trick that usually works: the reset button. It’s just silly enough that it makes him giggle and snap out of his mood, while reminding him that throwing a tantrum isn’t the way to get what we want. I ask him where his reset button is (the pesky thing keeps moving! It’s usually his nose or his belly button, though we’ve also found it hiding in his armpit and under his hair), press it and say “boop” and we have our sweet Ethan back for a little while. 

And here’s the other thing about pre-schoolers that astounds me: every day is a fresh start. It doesn’t matter if he had a terrible day at school the day before. If he forgot to share and got into a fight with a friend, or a friend hurt his feelings. Every day is a new day, a new chance for fun and adventure. It’s rare that he will carry baggage from one day to the next. This is probably something else he’s learned from his teachers. Even if they were exhausted or exasperated with him the day before, every day when Ethan bounds in the classroom he is greeted with an enthusiastic “Good morning, Ethan!” filled with an endless amount of love and kindness. 

I get this same clean-slate treatment from both Ethan and his one-year-old brother, Aaron. I’m not always as patient as I’d like to be, and my temper can get the best of me (especially at bed time), but Ethan and Aaron don’t seem to hold on to those moments as tightly as I do. When I’m not the mom I want to be, I take a breath and talk about it with the boys. I apologize. I acknowledge the ways that I hurt them, and ask for their forgiveness. And they share it abundantly in the form of tight squeezes and slobbery baby kisses. We talk about it and how we can help each other be better listeners and more patient, and then we move on. 

Those hugs and kisses are sacramental for me – they are an outward sign of God’s grace and forgiveness. God knows the many ways I fall short every day. God sees my selfishness, my need to control, my impatience. And God says, “You know what, I still love you. Let’s do better next time.” Every single time. And even more amazing, God’s grace helps me as I work to change. When my prayer compass is directed toward God, I’m more patient, open, and generous. It’s my own personal miracle, God’s grace made manifest in my messy life. My own lived experience of 2 Corinthians 19, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I glimpse God’s bigness through my own smallness.

A few years ago, a student gave a talk and used Pharrell’s hit “Happy” to describe his joyful experience of God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I think about this image every time I hear the song. Pure joy at the chance to make a fresh start with God. God’s grace helping me find my very own reset button, and the Holy Spirit helping me grow in love and kindness along the way. 

This January, as we consider our many New Year’s resolutions, I also give thanks to the God of forgiveness and fresh starts, and pray for another year of growing in God’s grace.

 

Laura Alexander
Assistant Director of University Ministry
University Minister for Retreats and Christian Life Communities

 
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