I read quite a few blog posts having to do with older adulthood. Several months ago, I started noticing that, among posts giving advice about how to age successfully, one frequent theme was self-reinvention. Such advice is often given to those faced with unwanted changes—the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the toll time levies on appearance. We don’t have to put up with such diminishments, we’re told. We can re-invent ourselves, melting down who we were and pouring ourselves into whatever mold we choose. Thus freed from former troubles, the “new me” can go on to do bigger and better things.
These recommendations are well-meaning and seemingly innocuous. However, as I thought about it, I realized that my past efforts to re-make myself produced cosmetic changes at most. Deeper, more lasting transformations didn’t come from my own efforts. They were instead the result of events or encounters that I had no way of anticipating—troubled relationships, disappointments at work, calamities experienced by those close to me. My faith doesn’t permit me to see such experiences as a random pummeling administered by an impersonal universe. Instead, I believe that what happens to me comes from the hand of God, and has the effect of shaping me to become more of the person He would have me to be. I found that in the Bible the term “renewal” is often used to refer to personal change that comes as the result of God’s initiative. I wrote an article about the two ways of change—by personal effort or in response to God’s guidance—and titled it “Reinvention or Renewal?” It was accepted for publication by The Banner, a magazine published by the Christian Reformed Church, and was printed in the most recent issue. The online version can be found here.
I would like to ask readers of this post their thoughts about this distinction between reinvention and renewal. Which best describes the way that changes in your life have occurred?