Theologian and scholar N.T. Wright suggests that after the failure with Adam, God begins again with Abraham. Wright says:
“The story of God and Abraham is the starting point for the whole of the rest of the biblical narrative, and it, in turn, gains its meaning from what has gone before. God is now, through Abraham, going to undo the plight of the human race and will thereby enable humans to pick up again the threads of the project that had been theirs from the start (looking after God’s world, making it fruitful, and peopling it), but that had been aborted through human rebellion.”
It’s almost as if, according to one Wright critic, God was seeking to hit the reset button on the creation project with Abraham. Through Abraham’s seed, God unleashes a blessing that is the antidote to the curses God pronounced as judgments on human rebellion (in chapters 1 – 11). At one level I think I’m OK with God beginning again with Abraham, but at another level, I see a lot of continuity between Genesis 12 and Genesis 1 to 11.
In a sense, every coaching session with a client is like beginning again. As I get to know a client, identify their learning style, note their personality preferences, and see how their unique personality works out in a variety of contexts, I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t “have them worked out.” (That’s true for my marriage as well!) While on the one hand, it’s true that the best predictor of future behavior is repeated behaviours in the past; it is equally true that in a given situation, a new context, a personal crisis – we have no idea how people might respond.
I’d worked with Lorna* for a number of years before she moved on and up to take on a new role. She successfully transitioned a dysfunctional organization into a much healthier state, and I figured her hands were full in her new role, and that she was challenged and as busy as. She wasn’t quick to respond to my emails; we played phone tag for a bit, and it seemed difficult for us to connect. My assumption was completely wrong. She was bored. And she was ready to quit her job. She’d met and conquered her challenge and was ready for something new. She was ready to begin again. I asked her what her time-line in her profession was showing her, and she said she would do some work on how God had shaped her thus far.
I am often reminded of the second Adam, who began again with his disciple Peter. Three times Peter denied Christ. Three times Christ asked him, “Do you love me?” And then Dr. Luke reminds us in Acts 10.16 that the vision Peter had on the rooftop “happened three times.”
I’m all for new beginnings, and in my own life, I’ve mostly been more effective the second time than the first. It’s humbling. And one of the great gifts God has given me in getting it right the second time is taking the time to reflect on what went wrong the first time and learn from it. Discipleship is about learning, and often also about un-learning.
I asked Lorna to spend some time learning what God had shown her thus far on the journey – the good bits, and the not so good bits. And out of that, I asked her, I’d love to know what God is preparing for you. I’m really looking forward to our next conversation, to see what God’s new beginning for Lorna might look like, and what she’s learned.
* name changed