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Reinvention or regeneration—how do we start anew?

From the January 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal

“I’m Jamie and I’m going to Wales. It’s time for Jamie 2.0.” 

Knowing that adding “2.0” to a familiar product or service indicates a significant improvement on the original, I smiled when reading this statement on social media. Not knowing Jamie personally, I had no idea why “Jamie 1.0” needed an upgrade. But the humility to recognize a need for change and the willingness to reinvent himself struck me as a noble undertaking.

It’s easy to see why taking a stab at reinvention through self-motivated change can seem appealing when things aren’t going as we would wish. But in my experience, I’ve found there’s a problem with the premise that we need to reinvent ourselves. It suggests we’re poorly designed in the first place and needing a mighty makeover. On the other hand, I’ve found the opposite starting point to be the more powerful change agent in my life, which has had many positive twists and turns. I begin from the understanding that we’re so much more than we humanly appear. We’re divinely designed by a perfect creator. Grasping this has led to unsought career opportunities, a decade living overseas, and learning new skills that I didn’t study in college.

These adjustments haven’t felt like a reset, but a spiritual unfoldment of good that is regeneration as described in Mary Baker Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896: “[Regeneration] is the appearing of divine law to human understanding; the spiritualization that comes from spiritual sense in contradistinction to the testimony of the so-called material senses” (p. 73). 

This spiritualization—this yielding a material sense of our lives for a spiritual understanding of what we are—has a beneficial impact on every aspect of our experience, including bringing healing to our minds and bodies. But the ultimate goal of this regeneration isn’t just improved human experience but complete yielding to the life that expresses God’s perfection. 

This isn’t done in a day! But at each stage of progress, there’s a freedom, grace, and power to seeking change through a deeper and clearer awareness of what we are in the light of what God creates. Describing all creation, the Bible says: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). 

This is the spiritual reality of our being. As God’s children, we’re each uniquely included in that “very good,” wholly spiritual creation, and as sons and daughters of a perfect God, there’s nothing in us that truly needs to be reinvented. But as the yearly tradition of making New Year’s resolutions reminds us, there can be plenty of room for improvement in our human character and behavior. 

None of us is yet consistently awake to the fullness of our true selves as God’s creation. But God is constantly urging that true view upon us through Christ, the true idea of God that Jesus most clearly evidenced by healing others. Our need is to open our hearts to that healing that makes us ever more aware of the spiritual identity and individuality we each have. That’s what a fiery Hebrew activist called Saul did. In what could seem like one of the greatest acts of human reinvention ever, he was transformed from being chief among those persecuting early Christians to the key proponent and spreader of the Christian faith as the Apostle Paul. 

But this wasn’t a self-directed human choice. It was spiritual regeneration, a yielding of the misguided human view of himself and others to a spiritual outlook. He describes his transformation in a letter to a fellow Christian, referring back to “a time when we, too, were foolish, rebellious, and deceived—we were slaves to sensual cravings and pleasures.” The letter goes on to note how God’s “overpowering love and kindness for humankind,” as seen in Christ Jesus, “brought us out of our old ways of living to a new beginning through the washing of regeneration” (see Titus 3:2–5, The Voice). 

Such spiritual cleansing is open to all. Moral renewal is a key part of it, but not the whole of it. Jesus showed how the needed understanding of God’s true nature also restores bodily health, no matter how solid and enduring the contrary evidence appears. For instance, a woman so twisted and bent over that she couldn’t even look up was instantaneously cured by the understanding of eternal, spiritual perfection that lay behind Jesus’ words to her, “Woman, you’re free!” (See Luke 13:10–13, Eugene Peterson, The Message.

A modest but precious healing of a fellow church member echoes that experience of physical regeneration through spiritual means. Decades after a skiing accident had left her thumb disfigured and inflexible, she became aware of how she’d allowed herself to accept a common belief that permanent injuries to the hand, particularly the thumb, were an inescapable outcome of falling on an artificial ski slope surface. 

As she progressed in her practice of Christian Science, though, she saw this as an inaccurate assumption in light of her being included in God’s “very good” creation. From then on, whenever she looked at or used her hand, she prayed to better understand her spiritual perfection. In a short while the deformity that had been there for decades disappeared, and her thumb has been normal ever since.

Human “reinvention” isn’t in itself a negative concept. Many musicians, artists, and business entrepreneurs have breathed fresh life into their careers by presenting a new persona to the public. But to the degree seeking reinvention means the human mind visualizing and pursuing its own self-centered goals, it distracts from the deeper demand for God-guided renewal that takes us so much further than just bettering our human experience. As Miscellaneous Writings points out: “The last degree of regeneration rises into the rest of perpetual, spiritual, individual existence” (p. 85).

This pure, spiritual consciousness comes to light, step by step, as we humbly allow ourselves to be cleansed by spiritual renewal of whatever doesn’t belong to our perfect being as God’s child, and let all that does belong come to ever clearer fruition.

Tony Lobl
Associate Editor

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