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The Power of a New Beginning

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | January 03, 2009

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." 
Genesis 1:1

Scholars agree that the first sentence in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) is one of the most powerful declarations in all of literature. And though we may differ on how it all began, we would all agreethat it all began. 

There is enormous power in a new beginning. When a baby is born, we sense the power of potential. When we plant a seed, we sense the power of life. When we pick up an instrument, we sense the power of music. When we begin college, we sense the power of knowledge. 

In the beginning. The blank sheet of paper. The empty canvas. The block of marble. The piece of steel. The first pitch. 

New beginnings are exhilarating. They capture our imagination of what might happen. They launch us to the moon and beyond. They inspire and motivate us. 

New beginnings are also terrifying. What if we don't succeed? What will they say? What will I do next if this doesn't work out? Will I be able to do it? 

William Zinsser references this adventure in his own life in his book, "Writing About your Life: A Journey into the Past" (Marlowe & Co., 2004). Reflecting on his own more than 80 years, he speaks of having lived an "alternate life" with many new beginnings. "...I periodically uprooted myself and how I never did — or continued to do — what I was expected to do. I didn't go into the family business. I didn't stay at the Herald Tribune. I didn't stay in New York; I didn't stay at Yale, and I didn't stay at the Book-of-the-Month Club. I always left when the work ceased to be fulfilling." 

What is it in human nature that makes a new beginning so intimidating? Why do we settle for the familiar known when the adventure of the unknown often scares us away? How many people settle for second and third best when all they would need to experience the best is to make a new beginning? Years ago a bored co-worker seemed happy as his retirement neared while he went from 120 to 119 more months. 

In the same book Zinsser said, "It comes down to permission. I'm struck by how scarce that commodity is. I go around America giving people permission to be who they want to be, and I think, 'Why me?'" 

He goes on to say, "When I mention 'permission,' the word detonates like a bomb. I've mentioned the unmentionable." 

I will always be grateful for those people who gave me permission to make a new beginning. Even though my father died and we had the family farm to run, my mother gave me permission to go to college. And just as important, my older brother took the role of the responsible male leader and without his permission my whole life would have been altered. 

Evie gave me permission to marry her; at each of life's new decisions other friends gave me permission to make a new beginning; as a pastor, a graduate student, a professor, and a college administrator. 

And now we are at the start of a new year with a unique beginning. Before each of us is the limitless power of that new beginning. Each of us must accept the privilege and responsibility to give ourselves and one another permission to life lived in the best way possible. 

G.K. Chesterton said, "The object of the New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes." 

2009. The power of a new beginning. A new president. A new birthday. A new anniversary. A new graduation. A new season for the Phillies. 

2009. The power of a new beginning. 

Think about it.


Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu