“Start as you mean to go,” was the first thing that popped into my head when one of my She Blossoms Facebook group members asked, “What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?”
Here’s the best marriage (and life!) advice I ever got: “Start as you mean to go.” A She Blossoms reader defined this as, “begin doing something in the way that one intends to continue doing it; set a consistent pattern of behavior right from the start.”
My personal example of starting as I meant to go happened after my wedding. I thought it was adorable and loving to make my husband’s morning oatmeal every morning. Then, after a month of making oatmeal at 5 am every day, I realized I’d set an expectation I’d have to continue for the rest of our life together. And I don’t even LIKE oatmeal, or cooking, or loving people by feeding them…so I had to stop what I started. It would’ve been easier to start as I meant to go.
It’s too hard to make changes in a relationship or role after you’ve settled in and expectations are solidified. Hence, “start as you meant to go.” This isn’t just good marriage advice, it’s a wise life lesson for any type of new beginning. Maybe you’re starting a new job, new semester at school, or life in a new city. Maybe your new beginning is more spiritual or emotional in nature, and you’re starting over after life knocks you down.
Maybe you wish you had a list of rules and regulations, or perhaps even laws and ordinances to help you start as you mean to go. If so, you’re in good company! A list of laws and ordinances was exactly what God gave the Israelites when they were starting a new life after escaping slavery and oppression in Egypt.
How to “Start as You Mean to Go” – Exodus 22
This blog post is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. I started with Genesis — beginning with The Reason You Were Created – Genesis 1 and ended that series with How to Live Like You Really Are Forgiven and Free – Genesis 50. Enter Exodus!
1. Decide how you mean to go
Exodus 22 is a continuation of the laws God gave Moses in Exodus 21. At first I thought they were dry, boring, and meaningless…until I realized that God was helping Moses and His chosen people learn how to start as they meant to go. God wanted His people to be a holy nation of priests, set apart from the neighboring nations. Thus, a set of laws and ordinances to help them live with justice, fairness, compassion, and peace. God had a good plan for His people, and He wanted to help them live into His vision. Thus, the laws and ordinances in Exodus and Leviticus. Knowing this helped me see the rules differently — both the Israelites’ ancient ways of being and what God asks us to do today.
What are you starting in your life? In Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back I describe a dozen new beginnings, such as Starting Over With Ruth (Chapter 5). Whether you’re starting a new career, new marriage, new friendship or a new role in your church or community, it’s crucial to take time to figure out how to “start as you mean to go.” Your first step is to envision where you want to go. What do you want your new venture to look, sound, feel, smell and look like? Who is part of this new beginning? What actions or habits will help you “start as you mean to go”? Write them down, like Moses did. Pretend you’re taking dictation from God (if you follow Jesus, you probably are taking dictation from God).
2. Pay attention to your progress
Exodus 22 doesn’t tell us much about the Israelites’ progress in following God’s ordinances…but we can see how many problems and issues they encountered in daily life! Everything from keeping borrowed animals and possessions safe to not sacrificing to gods other than the Lord to not exploiting immigrants and strangers. God gave Moses laws about theft, crop protection, personal property, sedition, capital offenses, and protecting the vulnerable because He wanted His people to live in safety, prosperity, and peace. God wanted them to treat each other with respect and care, compassion and love. He wanted them to start as they meant to go because He knew it’d be easier to start strong than try to change old destructive habits.
How are you proceeding in your new beginning? Chances are you’ve already started — even if you’re not officially in your new role yet. Maybe you aren’t yet married, setting into a new job, or establishing boundaries in a new friendship. Regardless, you’ve already started. Your mindset is how you’ve already started as you mean to go. Maybe you’re setting yourself up for disaster, or ignoring the warning signs of a bad relationship because you want to be loved. Maybe you allowed your boss or coworkers to speak disrespectfully or even rudely to you in the job interview because you need the money. Maybe you’re doing too much for your husband without regard for your time, energy, interests, goals or desire to start as you mean to go. Pay attention to how you’re moving forward; the more time goes by, the harder it is to make changes.
3. Plan for new beginnings – even in old relationships
“Be my holy people,” says the Lord in Exodus 22:31. These four simple little words (which aren’t so simple or little when you really think about them) summarize God’s intention for His chosen people. Being holy meant knowing and obeying His ordinances. God knew His people weren’t perfect, which is why He made plans for sinning, repentance, atonement, forgiveness, and a fresh new beginning. God wanted His people to be holy so they would be set apart, different, and unique. He wanted — and wants — a relationship with His people. He is holy, and thus requires us to be holy, too. That’s why He gave Moses these ordinances and laws. God also made plans for a new beginning (Jesus) because He knew we wouldn’t be able to live perfect lives without help.
How will you make way for new beginnings in your old roles and relationships? Maybe you’ve been married for 25 years, and you didn’t start as you meant to go. Maybe you’ve been working with the same organization for 40 years, and want to stick it out until retirement. You didn’t start as you meant to go, but you don’t want to start over in a new job. How will you create a new beginning in your old role or relationship? You might make a big change or attempt, such as talking to people who hold a meaningful place in your life. You might make a small tweak, such as changing how you respond to your husband or boss.
If you didn’t start as you meant to go, don’t regret it. Start changing what you can! It’s never too late to change how you respond to people or situations in your life today. Go as you intended to start.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” ~ Isaiah 43:19.