They all sound alike. When we hear them, the memories get thick like the soup that this colder weather makes us crave. Those yellow school buses have started their daily routes down our streets with engines roaring and brakes squeaking. Though I don’t have kids getting off and on them anymore, they still drive many childhood memories for me.
Since I lived on a farm, we were often one of the first ones to get on the bus in the morning and the last ones off, so the long routes gave us much time to fill. I remember that often it led to singing some of those fun rhyming songs like “100 Bottles of Beer” we had to take down for some reason and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” whose name was the same as me. But my favorite was “Michael Finnegan” simply because he got to begin again.
The song tells of woes of a man who had a rough life. From wind-blown whiskers and having to eat from a tin cup to going from fat to thin and back to fat again, this guy seemed never to catch a break. The good news, though, he always got to begin again. If the fish were not biting or falling and banging his chin, he could get back up and have a fresh start.
Isn’t that what we all crave, a fresh start. I read a line from the Rule of Saint Benedict, which says, “Always we begin again.” It is the call to holiness of repetition and gives grace to the ability to begin again and again. As author Leeana Tankersley says, “Beginning again is permission to be unaccomplished, to be a beginner, to be brand new. More than permission too, a sense that we are right where we should be and that the beginning space is actually a holy space, not just a layover on our way to something better”.
Scripture is full of the promise of new beginnings. In Isaiah 43, God tells us that He is doing something new and wants us to feel it. In Lamentations, we are told that His mercies are new, that they begin again, every morning. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they received fresh bread from heaven each morning and then in the New Testament Jesus tell us to ask for daily bread. God is the God of beginning again. He faithfully shows up in each of our new beginnings.
There is a warning at the end of the song “Michael Finnegan.” He was told to “not begin again.” When he didn’t, it sadly became the end of him. Our enemy will also whisper those words to you and I. He hates that God tells us to begin again. God’s promise of new beginnings hurts Satan’s ears. He wants us stuck in the mud of wrong choices and hard uncontrollable situations. But we don’t have to listen to him, ever.
Today is new and tomorrow will be too. No matter the failures of my yesterday I get to begin again, just like good old Mike Finnegan. As long as I remember that God allows us to start again with new grace, new opportunities to try again and permission to start each day with a fresh perspective, we can grab that daily bread and feast on the freshness of the God who loves us and loves making things new, again.