The chance to start again

Refresh. Renew. Reflect. Umm, rebirth! What about revive? Return? Redo. I bet you didn’t get this one—redeem!”

Whoever thought that ninth graders could become so competitive over a grammar lesson about prefixes? I scrambled to keep up with them, writing each re- verb on the board and finally pausing after that very enthusiastic “redeem.”

Most of them probably didn’t realize it, but as they brainstormed these words, they managed to create a roll call of Lenten themes.

These 14-year-olds certainly understand the power of making something better and of starting again. I often hear them say, “Would you let me revise my last essay so I can improve it?” “Can you repeat the directions?” “I’m going to redo the assignment after school.” There seems to be an infinite desire for another chance, and not only for high schoolers. How nice it is to refresh with a cold drink on a summer day or recall a memory from childhood, to restore an old photograph or renew a wedding vow. The act of doing over and coming back offers us a unique opportunity for a new start.

Now, in the midst of Lent, I think of the times this season I have followed through on all those verbs my students tossed out—and the times I haven’t. My older daughter, a college freshman, encouraged me to join her in reading the Lenten reflections that her school emails each morning. I started off strong, spending time during the week after Ash Wednesday enjoying passages before the busyness of the day began. We shared our thoughts later on through a quick text or phone call, but then, as sometimes happens, I missed one, and then another, and so did she, preoccupied by worldly distractions. Soon a week had gone by. Frustrated, I then realized that I just had to start again. Like my students, I needed to “redo my assignment.”

And the first passage I read the next day could not have been more fitting, one from Isaiah that ended with “Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

With God, there seems no limit to the opportunities he gives us to rebuild and restart, and I feel that so often during Lent. Though I missed out on those days of reflection, he invited me back, aptly saying, “Return to me.”

Though my students make mistakes, they see an opportunity to do better. For us Catholics, that message is compelling, applicable to our relationship with God during Lent and to all segments of our lives throughout the year.

Just as I was finishing this piece, I received an email from a student who had been struggling over the winter and had fallen behind.

“Spring’s rolling around, soon flowers will be blooming,” she wrote. “New beginnings I guess. I’m excited. See you tomorrow.”

With spring indeed upon us and Easter approaching, I remind myself to reflect and revise, keeping in mind the power of that little prefix and knowing Jesus’ resurrection gives us all the chance to start anew.