The sidewalks in our former neighborhood are old and as run down as our house. If you venture out, be prepared for an abundance of beer cans and pizza fliers. The path is broken into pieces, and good luck finding two feet of level concrete. The curbs are jagged. The way is largely unsafe. You have to look down the whole time just to avoid tetanus. Pushing a stroller is a nightmare, and, if you’re still stuck in the 1990’s, don’t even think about rollerblading. My sidewalks now are a little better. The neighbors always sweep away the freshly cut grass in the summer or the leaves in the fall. Everyone cares how the street looks. Everyone even chips in to buy neighborhood flowers every year.
But what I loved about my old sidewalk is the same thing that endears me to my new sidewalk: the presence of breaks in the concrete. The pavement is scattered with these centimeters-long canyons. It’s often not a huge rupture, yet somehow, grass sneaks in. Sometimes a weed pops up or the occasional wild flower. But every little break seems to invite the habitation of an extremely determined plant.
It’s never over.
That’s what I’m discovering.
It feels like there’s supposed to be a limit to new beginnings or the possibilities of hope or the opportunity for change, but there’s not.
Babies are born. Clovers keep coloring the field by my house with a deeper shade of green. Birds keep singing. Summer keeps coming. New days, changing seasons, everywhere.
The newness finds competition in a flurry of voices—voices that try to convince us we can’t walk in a month of brand new dawns. Our own capacity for forgiveness may threaten to be an obstacle. But it doesn’t seem to matter to the sun, which stubbornly gives us morning after morning. Despite the weight of yesterday, I keep bumping up against this God who makes things new.
And nothing seems to stand in his way.
I’ve been a Christ-follower for over 25 years, and new beginnings still surprise me. Maybe it’s because I assume I’ve maxed out my hall pass or my get out of jail free card. Maybe it’s because I’ve begun to see life through a finite lens—where the world is a set-up with strict boundaries, like the Truman Show. My guilt feels more real than wild flowers growing in sidewalk cracks. My anxiety and arrogance suffocate like bland, ugly concrete. How can new beginnings keep coming?
Maybe I ask the question because I don’t understand that God is not only the One who created, but also the One who creates.
I grew up thinking creation was a one-time event—a fabulous explosion of life out of nothing. God, who existed before time, spoke order into chaos and separated sea and land and made life.
It had a start (day one) and a finish (the Sabbath).
But maybe I’ve failed to recognize God’s continuous creative power expressed throughout history. God created a people who weren’t a people. God created a way out of Egypt through the Sea of Reeds. God created a way through the wilderness and a way to grace-flooded freedom. God sailed on the wings of grace to earth in the form of a human. And God created today.
“Don’t keep holding on to the former things. Don’t let them mark your life. Stop living in what’s already happened. Look right here. I’m doing something new. It’s springing up. Don’t miss it. I am making a way in the desert and streams in the midst of desolation” Isaiah 43:18-19 (my paraphrase).
No need to disregard the past—just know it doesn’t have as much of a say as you think it does. New beginnings aren’t about you, they’re not about how much you’ve failed or how much you deserve another chance. New beginnings are about God. Creation is happening in our midst. Light is poking holes in the darkness. Love is healing wounds. Hope is reviving despair.
Flowers can break through concrete.
In my old neighborhood, there were times when the sidewalk was overtaken by grass. You could no longer see concrete. The path was wild and green and uninhibited.
And new beginnings are boundary-less. That’s the amazing part of being loved by a God with limitless power and creative provision. God—not only the Creator, but right now, right in front of us—the One who creates.
God breaks chains and opens sealed tombs. God can certainly build a garden in the middle of concrete.