In Beginnings, The First Seven Days of the Rest Your Life, author Steve Wiens offers up a unique addition to the motivational book genre. Steve, a pastor in Minnesota, has tied his main message to the seven days of creation found in the Book of Genesis and the promise of new “beginnings”.
Now to be honest, I found the biblical connection a bit tenuous—but it really didn’t matter. Steve is a gifted writer and storyteller, sharing many personal anecdotes and putting fresh spins on a few biblical tales. He could have connected his message to the Seven Dwarves, and I’m sure it would have been just as good a read.
I’m going to talk about two key messages I pulled from Beginnings, the ones that resonated with me after I put the book down. The first is a primary theme that is repeated throughout the book, about how we are constantly offered the chance to start anew and “bring forth even more life into the world”. Wiens posits the idea that:
You are partnering in the ongoing creation of your actual life, which is endlessly unfolding, artfully constructed and filled with hidden beginnings that sometimes flow out of unexpected endings.
We need to be alert to the beginnings life offers us, as they are often not obvious, and involve breaking free from the status quo. To Wiens, this means “leaving the forced march”, so we can “pursue the endless adventure of becoming”.
Now, Wiens recognizes that this journey of becoming who we were really meant to be—who God wants us to be—is both “dangerous and transformational”. But it’s worth the effort:
There is something deep inside of you so good that you’re most likely suppressing it because you can’t believe that bringing it to life might help to heal the world. You need to bring it out—over and over again.
He tells us that “there are seeds of life embedded within you by God, and something needs to call them forth so they can burst into life.” We can choose to ignore this calling and push the “seeds of life” back down, but it’s in our best interest to bring the good inside us to life. We need to take action, no matter how difficult it may be:
It can feel like surging rage, bubbling up and embarrassing you in the middle of a meeting at work. It can feel like blinding frustration. It can even be blissful joy, filling you in a moment that overwhelms you with gratitude.
My take: beginnings come in different sizes, from big to small. The big opportunities can include starting a fresh relationship or finding a new way to serve your family or community. But there are small opportunities as well, and we can realize them virtually every day—stopping to talk with someone on the margins, complimenting a stranger, going out of our way to do anything that resembles walking the proverbial old lady across the street. These smaller beginnings shake us from life-as-usual, and put us on a path that is more loving, more kind and more compassionate.
The second aspect of the book that really hit home for me was Wiens’ look at the four seasons and the different moods each one of them evokes. Since winter has now set in here in the Northeast United States, I found his chapter on the “the soul-crushing season of winter” especially evocative and personally relevant. (See my “blue winter” piece from a couple of years ago.) Wiens writes:
During the winter we wait, and the waiting is brutal. Going without what we’re longing for feels desperate and panicky. When you are waiting, there is a hopelessness that can descend and cover you, a fog that won’t burn off. It’s my least favorite season.
Amen Steve, I agree with you 100%. The only good thing I can say about winter is that it passes. Like a tree covered by a thick blanket of snow, we silently endure this unwelcome visitor and perhaps our roots grow stronger during the process. And I suppose the chill of winter makes the arrival of spring all the more joyful, with its new opportunities, it’s chance for new beginnings.
This post originally appeared on my Patheos Wake Up Call column, January 13, 2016.