“The rebirth of his heart was indispensable” (James Martineau).
HAS YOUR LIFE EVER FALLEN INTO SUCH DECLINE OR DECAY THAT YOU NEEDED TO MAKE A RADICAL CHANGE? All of us need improvement, of course, but sometimes the improvement we need is so drastic that when we have experienced it, we feel as if we’ve gone back to the beginning and started our lives all over.
The concept of “regeneration” (which literally means “rebirth”) is familiar to religious persons. As far as our relationship to our Creator is concerned, what we need is certainly more than a little polishing up. We need to be deeply regenerated or reborn — that is, to change directions so radically that the conversion amounts to being “reborn.”
But in today’s reading, we are not thinking about regeneration in the religious or spiritual sense. And we’re not even thinking about it in the sense of the major turning points in our secular lives. What we have in mind today is something a bit simpler, and that is the daily need to open ourselves up to being new and better people.
There are few gifts any better than giving ourselves to our loved ones as persons committed to constant renewal. Rather than letting ourselves be dragged down by the weariness of life, if we would greet each new day as a fresh start in life and live it as if we had been reborn or regenerated, that would be a gracious thing to do. And surely, that is a blessing each of us can bestow upon those around us.
Sometimes it is crisis that prompts us to change for the better, but one of the amazing things about our minds is that we can choose to make such changes at any time, even when there is no crisis. We have the ability to examine our lives, see where change is needed, and then pursue a new course as a matter of choice.
But in conclusion, let’s come back to the idea of crisis. There is no denying that hardship and suffering play a special role in renewing us. In fact, when we look back, we can often see that the circumstances we most dreaded were often those that produced the most growth in us. So if we must suffer, let’s be grateful for the fresh start that hard experiences can give us. Nobody ever said that being born was easy.
“Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state” (George Eliot).