‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.’
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
You’ll often hear people sounding off about the media’s preoccupation with the peddling of arbitrary standards of beauty. There’s a familiar story at play, from glossy magazines to broadsheet newspapers, from chat shows to reality television: sell the idea that only a certain image is acceptable; tell tawdry stories of celebrities who’ve failed to live up to that poisonous ideal; counterpoint that schadenfreude with faux-inspirational interviews with said celebrities vowing to turn their lives around; rinse, repeat, rinse. Youth and beauty are king and queen of the world, and everyone is held to their impossible standard. Fundamentally though, it’s the story of an inability to accept the idea of change as a constant in our lives.
The defining characteristic of the carnal, the world, the outer self, is decay and transition. The fact is, all things change…and the most obvious example of that in our lives is the aging process. We change shape, we grow, we mature, and past a certain point we begin, slowly but surely, to become old. But the lie that the world tells us is that this natural process is wrong. Unfair. That it’s a failing, a falling off. That this natural process is unnatural, and should be fought or held back, through fair means or foul.
Luckily for us, we are concerned with the inner self. Every day, we start afresh in God’s love. Christ’s is a spirit of revitalization, renewal, rebirth. The kind of negativity that the world peddles to us is antithetical to our lives in the Spirit. You’ll notice that misery loves company—all of those who live in the notion that good things will fade and that beauty is temporary will tell you that it can be clawed back for a while…but that, sooner or later, the battle will be lost. In other words, they create an enemy that cannot be beaten, tell you that you must try, and then tell you that you will fail. Self-defeating isn’t the half of it!
We don’t live in that world. We’re the beneficiaries of something greater. Where the world of the carnal sees a slowly descending night, we’re already looking forward to the dawn. We carry nothing negative over from today into tomorrow, and yesterday has no power over us. And as time goes on we begin to understand a basic truth in God: that change may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be detrimental.
All of the lies we’re told about change fade in comparison with that truth, because we’re new people every day. Those people who don’t live in that truth will talk about the pointlessness of life, how things break and can’t be fixed, because they don’t have that brand new self when they wake in the morning. They carry over all their doubts, their fears, their burdens and their baggage, from one day to the next, never able to rise with the sun and face the day with a smile. Their lives are a slow, grudging count, like prisoners serving life sentences, adding one day after another to their tally, hopeless marks on a wall. We live at year zero, and every day is the first day of the rest of our lives. And one thing the world and the saved have in common…where misery loves company, happiness has to be shared to be enjoyed to the fullest. It’s not enough for us to be renewed each day, everyone needs to be renewed with us. We want to bring the gift of God’s abundance to those without it, because who would want to see them miserable when we’re graced with the alternative?
We live in daylight. We change and we evolve. We grow towards the light. There’s no falling off, no decay, no collapse in Christ. It’s not always easy to ignore the voices of doom that want to turn hard, rewarding work into a pointless struggle; to turn fulfillment into frustration; to turn dawn into twilight. Sometimes we need to be freshened up, to be recharged. When you’re feeling at your most energized in God, remember that moment when you weren’t, and realize…someone, somewhere in your life is probably in that moment right now. Happiness has to be shared to be enjoyed to the fullest. Find that person. Share your experience with them. Bring them to shelter in the warmth of God’s revitalization in your life. We’re social, gregarious creatures by design. Jesus wants us to share, to lift others, to inspire by example, just as we’re inspired by His example.
We live in daylight, one day at a time, one dawn at a time. The mindset with which we approach each new dawn shows us how we’re going to approach the day to come. Vitality is a spiritual thing. It doesn’t stem from shallow ideas of youth and strength and beauty. The opposite is true. When you are spiritually refreshed, youth, strength and beauty flow from that state of rejuvenation.