How to Build a New Life

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Every now and again one of the TV dramas that I enjoy watching will feature an individual who was witness to a crime, and needs the protection of the government. These folks change their name, change their hair, leave their old life behind, and move to somewhere like Utah to start a brand new life for themselves. They completely start over. And there have been times in my life that I’ve thought, “Yeah, I could do that.”

My desire to completely start over usually follows an instance where I’ve screwed up on some big scale and I just want to hide away from the world (for those who are interested in the Enneagram, I am a 9 and I’m told this is so what we’re all about). If perhaps I have one of those stick my foot in my mouth moments where I’m saying something I wish I wasn’t, moving to the mountains and growing a (bigger) beard seems reasonable. If I forget to do the one and only chore my wife has asked me to do while she’s at work all day and I sit at home and watch cop dramas, my inner instinct is to flee. Of course, I don’t act on such impulses. I have a family after all, and I’m told they mostly like having me around. But that impulse is there, and I think worthy of exploring. When I screw up hard enough, I want to start over.

While moving to Utah may be out of the question, the really good news is that in Jesus Christ we have the ability to build a new life each and every time we are confronted with such a failure. While many, if not most, Christians see the cross and the resurrection as opportunities to enjoy the afterlife, I think this is an amazingly short-sighted perspective. Of course Jesus work on the cross and the subsequent empty tomb do purchase for us everlasting life. But there’s so much more!

Resurrection means that when we are building for ourselves a life we don’t like, taking the journey through this world in a direction we don’t appreciate, through the gifts and power of Jesus Christ we have the ability to reinvent, to repurpose, to redirect our lives. The biblical language for this is “repentance,” but it essentially means that we can build a new life for ourselves.

Say for instance you wake up one morning and realize that you are a bit more greedy than you’d like to be. You realize that your world has become about the getting and maintaining of things, rather than living life to the fullest. There are some steps you can take to get back on track:

Step One: Name It!
Every once in a while, when I’m visiting other churches of course, someone will say to me that the time of confession in the worship service is a bummer. I think that drastically misses the blessing that is the confession! For us to be able to build a new life, we have to actually name what’s going wrong in the old one. Think about the last time you were shopping for a car. Wasn’t it true that as soon as you started looking into a particular brand and style of vehicle, that was all you were able to see on the road? So in our example, recognizing that greed has taken us places we don’t want to go is a great way to notice the greed in our lives. Naming it has the ability to highlight our faults for us.

Step Two: Lay it down.
Probably the most painful part of this transformation is recognizing that any amount of change is ultimately going to lead to some sort of pain. If my entire life has been built around the accumulation of things, and I all of a sudden decide to move away from that, I’m going to have a rough time adjusting. This for me is where Jesus really shines. I can just picture Jesus standing next to me, arms outstretched, saying “Let me hold on to that for you.” Part of the language of the evangelical church that I’ve always appreciated is to “Lay our sins at the foot of the cross.” It’s a powerful image to keep in mind, and has certainly helped me to let go of some of my hang ups.

Step Three: Turn it around.
I am growing more and more convinced that just about every vice that human beings can fall in to has a corresponding, more appealing virtue. For instance, when I find myself convinced that things are set, that there’s no change available, when I’m cynical, I know that putting my efforts and energies into hope is a worthy tool for combat! When I’m hoping for the future, I’m dreaming of how things could be different, how they could be better. This usually frees me up to see a new angle on life, to charge ahead with new energy. What’s the virtue that most actively combats your vice? They are our there, and they can turn our situation around.

Resurrection is not something we have to wait until we die to experience. I am convinced that there are little resurrections each and every day, and that we have the ability to live into them well. So maybe we aren’t going to start over in the witness protection program. But every time the second hand moves is an opportunity for growth, for change, and for resurrection.

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