For years I have kept a poem in my file, titled “The Land of Beginning Again”, by Mrs. Booth Tarkington:

“I wish that there were some sweet,

wonderful place,
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all
our heartaches
And all of our poor, selfish grief
Could be dropped, like a shabby old coat
at the door,
And never be put on again.

We would find all the things we
intended to do
But forgot, and remembered — too late —
Like praises unspoken, and promises broken
And all of the thousand and one
Little duties neglected
that might have perfected
The day for some person forlorn.

It wouldn’t be possible not to be kind
In the Land of Beginning Again;
And the ones we misjudged and the ones
We begrudged
Their moments of victory here,
Would find in the grasp of our
living handclasp
More than penitent lips could explain.
For, what had been hardest we’d know
had been best,
And what had seemed loss would be gain;
For there isn’t a sting that will not take to wing
When we’ve faced it and laughed it away;
And I think that the laughter is most what we’re after
In the Land of Beginning Again.

So I wish that there were some sweet,
Wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all
our heartaches
And all of our poor, selfish grief
Could be dropped, like a shabby old coat, at the door,
And never be put on again.”

Who wouldn’t like to go to such a place? How many times have we done or said the wrong thing, taken the wrong road, or experienced a personal failure we can’t forget? Have you ever wanted to start all over again, as if life had a “rewind” button and we could go back to the beginning for another try?

So many people love the great old hymn, “Amazing Grace”. It was written, of course, by John Newton, a former slave trader and a murderer. One day he became a Christian. He began a new life in spite of his terrible past. I know many people who have been bothered by the lyrics in that first verse, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Actually, if that language bothers you, perhaps you should know that Newton’s original version didn’t use the word “wretch”. He used the word “worm”. So much for pop psychology and feel-good religion! John Newton knew that he had no choice but to begin again because his life had reached a dead-end.

I believe in a God of second chances — and third, and fourth … To all those folks who wonder if God could ever love them again, I want to say that God never gives up on any of us. This month’s New Year’s message is simple: It is for all those imperfect, all-too-human souls who have experienced life’s dead-ends. Now is not the end of the story. Because of something Newton called “Amazing Grace”, it just might be the first page of a new story altogether. So have a blessed — and brand new — New Year.

Blair Monie is senior pastor of the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202 or e-mail here.


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