How do you escape the fate of Sisyphus?
One of my first “real” jobs as a kid was a two-week gig at the Iowa State Fair. Each morning I showed up at 6 a.m. A supervisor handed me a sealed metal can with a slot in its top and assigned me to one of the carnival attractions to collect tickets. Twelve never-ending hours in the sweltering Midwest humidity, grabbing tickets and stuffing them through that slot.
My dad got me that job. Every morning he’d deposit me at the gate and say, “Hey, it’s a new day.” I think he wanted me to understand why I needed to study hard and go to college. It worked.
Endless, mindless, purposeless effort, each day exactly like the previous and the next—those two weeks offered a glimpse of the horrible eternal fate to which Sisyphus was condemned.
The Bible is filled with promises of renewal. Paul writes (2 Corinthians 4), “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
He also encourages renewal (Romans 12): Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
And I say: please, anything but that! Please don’t make me start over. Please, not another day just like the last, filling the same can with the same tickets from the same faceless, sweaty hands.
I don’t wanna!
If “renewal” literally means going back to the beginning, count me out. I agree with Nicodemus:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:3-4
If renewal means starting over, I’d prefer another option. I do not want to do junior high again!
Of course Jesus wasn’t speaking literally. His continued conversation with Nicodemus clearly shows that He’s describing spiritual re-birth.
Circle or Spiral?
Spiritual renewal doesn’t mean going back to the beginning, starting the same journey from the same place. That’s the pointless life of Sisyphus, an endless circle leading nowhere.
God offers the opportunity to start fresh without starting over. Spiritual renewal does involve a new beginning, but it also means starting from an improved foundation.
God’s renewal isn’t a circle; it’s more like an upward spiral. I get to release my biases and regrets, but retain new insights. Jesus invites me to develop increased wisdom and improved discernment—while always approaching God with childlike wonder.
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
Following Jesus means embracing the mystery of becoming like little children while putting aside the ways of childhood.
Renewal—a new beginning without starting over—I’m in!
How about you?
Which is harder for you—becoming childlike or setting aside childish ways?
Note: Today’s post is our conteibution to the One Word At A Time blog carnival. I hope you’ll stop by and check out some other perspectives on Renewal.
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