How do we start anew?

As the new year kicks off, here’s a spiritual take on the concept of renewal that brings truly meaningful change into our lives.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“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.

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.

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 appear. Grasping this has led to unsought career opportunities, a decade living overseas, and learning new skills.

These adjustments haven’t felt like a reset, but a spiritual unfoldment of good, of regeneration. In “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, describes regeneration as “the appearing of divine law to human understanding” (p. 73).

Letting go of a material sense of our lives for a spiritual understanding of what we are – divinely designed by a perfect creator – has a beneficial impact on every aspect of our experience, including healing our minds and bodies. But the ultimate goal of this regeneration isn’t just improved human experience but 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 – “very good,” as the Bible puts it (Genesis 1:31).

This is the spiritual reality of our being. 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 aware 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 the spiritual identity and individuality we each have.

Such spiritual cleansing is open to all. Jesus showed how understanding God’s true nature restores bodily health, no matter how solid the problem appears. For instance, a woman so twisted and bent over that she couldn’t even look up was instantaneously cured by Jesus’ understanding of eternal, spiritual perfection.

A modest but precious healing of a fellow church member echoes that experience of physical regeneration through spiritual means. Years after a skiing accident had left her thumb disfigured and inflexible, she became aware of how she’d allowed herself to accept that permanent injuries to the hand 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.

“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 visualizing and pursuing self-centered goals, it distracts from the deeper, God-guided renewal that takes us so much further than just bettering our day-to-day 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 being as God’s child, and let all that does belong come to ever clearer light.

Adapted from an editorial published in the January 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.