On his fourth album, Daylight, singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik explored the desire to start again and escape from the ravages of time. Although the album was not particularly popular among mainstream audiences, it has an honored place in one of my collections of music, especially for the beauty of its songs “Half-Life” and “Start Again.” In the latter song, the singer longs to head out to the wide and open spaces to start again with a loved one, free of the baggage of the past, if they can clear the way. Most of the time, we can’t clear the way. One of the looming but often unrecognized tragedies of our times, and particularly the importance of establishing a firm record of the lives of people so that our understanding of the data points that surround each life is complete, is that one never gets the chance to start again. One’s past, or what is thought and recorded of that past, even if it is not true, is always kept track of, potentially to be used against us. Most of the time, this fact doesn’t bother very many people, but at times this becomes a very serious matter, and it is often realized far too late that this is the case, far too late to do anything about it except for live the best one can in the knowledge that the past will never be forgiven nor forgotten by those around us.
In Genesis 1:14-19, the fourth commandment tells of the use of the sun, moon, and stars in Creation: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” In our day and age, electricity, especially with regards to artificial light, has made it possible for people to work all day long, all year long, and to lose sight of the cycles of time that used to govern life. Yet our lives, even in our contemporary world, are governed by cycles of time. A day is from sunset to sunset, a week from Sabbath to Sabbath, a month from new moon to new moon, a year from Abib to Abib, and then cycles of seven, nineteen, and forty-nine years from there. Many of these cycles of time are associated with the Sabbath and Holy Days , and a large part of those cycles is focused on a new start. Every day begins in darkness, to rest before the work of the day. Every week ends in rest, to recuperate so that the next week can start again in earnest, every month begins with a new moon, celebrated historically with food and fellowship . Every year begins with the preparations for the Passover, as we celebrate our freedom from the slavery of sin and start again as an unleavened lump, with our feet washed from the metaphorical dust of the journey of our lives. Every seven years debts are to be forgiven, and at every jubilee, seven cycles of seven, slaves are freed and property is returned to its original inhabitants so that even families get a chance to start again without having the mistakes of previous generations held against them. Every level of time includes some way for the slate to be wiped clean, for everyone to start again with the balance back to zero, hopefully better and wiser for one’s experience, but free of the burdens of the past.
This periodic restart is among the most glorious aspects of God’s plan for humanity. When God created mankind, He may not have been aware of how badly we would screw up this existence, but as Jesus Christ was slain from the foundations of the world (see Revelation 13:8), it was likely obvious from the beginning that mankind would need a fresh start. Some parts of the Bible, like Judges , are organized around cycles of disobedience, judgment, contrition, and deliverance. Given that a large part of the purpose of all of our lives is to learn and grow in grace and knowledge and become like our Heavenly Father, and given that we come from a world horribly broken and scarred by the long-term effects of sin and rebellion against God’s ways, we are all going to make a lot of mistakes. And so God gives us the chance to start again, over and over and over again, patient as He lovingly forms us like clay on the potter’s wheel with His gentle but firm hands. We greatly appreciate God for this mercy, and for this kindness, for we all know that without this gracious forbearance we would all be without hope of eternal life, subject to the terror of eternal judgment.
Yet we struggle to give that same gracious treatment to others. The way our contemporary world operates is not a world that wants anyone to be able to start again. We treat teenagers as adults, sometimes at their request, and sometimes as a punishment for misdeeds, shrinking the amount of time someone has to live before they must begin to suffer the repercussions of their deeds. We set some debts on a pedestal so that they cannot be wiped out by bankruptcy, consider some societal debts to be so massive that they cannot be wiped out by the death of everyone who had been alive when the offenses were committed, and once someone enters the justice system, even the slightest misdeed is enough to drag them back into prison’s gaping hole, which like the grave is never full. We are a society that simply has lost an interest in forgiving and in wiping the slate clean. We always want to be able to hold someone’s wrongs against them, so that someone who has done anything wrong permanently loses our respect and our regard. Given the fact that we all ought to be painfully aware of our own tendencies to stumble and fall, we ought to be very wary about encouraging any tendency to make life a narrow path with chasms on either side where a small ditch would be sufficient to warn people not to wander off of the middle of the road and a sufficient price to pay for error and folly. What will it take for us to rebuild those ancient ways that God established by which we could start again, free of the burden of the sins others have committed against us, and free of our own debts and the heavy price of our own sins and blunders? For God knows we all blunder enough.
 This is discussed at length here:
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